1. Fresh Air music reviewer Milo Miles did a piece on the 2012 soundtrack to the Festival au Desert, the world music festival that usually takes place near Timbuktu in Mali.

    The violence and unrest in Mali (due to Islamic radicals in the northern part of the country) has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and, inevitably, the cancellation of this year’s lineup.  So now, instead, some of the artists are performing at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors, a long way from West Africa, performing as refugees.  Singer guitarist Mamadou Kelly referred to the nomadic show as "a ‘caravan for peace’ and a ‘festival in exile.’"

    The video above is Toureg rock band Tinariwen singing one of their most popular songs, “Amassakoul.”

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  1. Milo Miles on the new album Live From Festival au Desert Timbuktu:

Although it was inspired by traditional festivals held by the Touareg people, the Festival in the Desert is a distinctly international symbol of modern Africa. Popular music has become a reliable export from many African countries, increasingly recognized as a force to bring diverse people together. Frequent guests appear from outside the continent. As is often noted, rock veterans like and have attended and performed at earlier Festivals.

Image of the Festival au Desert via the Imaginative Traveller View in High-Res

    Milo Miles on the new album Live From Festival au Desert Timbuktu:

    Although it was inspired by traditional festivals held by the Touareg people, the Festival in the Desert is a distinctly international symbol of modern Africa. Popular music has become a reliable export from many African countries, increasingly recognized as a force to bring diverse people together. Frequent guests appear from outside the continent. As is often noted, rock veterans like and have attended and performed at earlier Festivals.

    Image of the Festival au Desert via the Imaginative Traveller

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    Milo Miles

    Festival Au Desert

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    Mali

    Timbuktu

  1. Islamist insurgents retreating from the ancient Saharan city of Timbuktu have set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless ancient manuscripts, some dating back to the 13th century, in what the town’s mayor described as a “devastating blow” to world heritage.

    Hallé Ousmani Cissé told the Guardian that al-Qaida-allied fighters on Saturday torched two buildings where the manuscripts were being kept. They also burned down the town hall and governor’s office, and shot dead a man who was celebrating the arrival of the French military.

    French troops and the Malian army reached the gates of Timbuktu on Saturday and secured the town’s airport. But they appear to have got there too late to save the leather-bound manuscripts, which were a unique record of sub-Saharan Africa’s medieval history.

    "It’s true. They have burned them," Ciffe said, in a phone interview from Mali’s capital, Bamako.

    — 

    "Mali Rebels Fleeing Timbuktu Burn Library Full of Ancient Manuscripts," by Luke Harding in The Guardian.

    Listen to our interview with Adam Nossiter of the New York Times about the situation in Mali.

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    Adam Nossiter

  1. France carried out new airstrikes overnight against Islamist fighters in central Mali, as Paris pledged on Tuesday to commit more troops to a potentially protracted campaign against extremists pressing south from a jihadist state they have forged in the desert north of the country.

    — 

    The New York Times, “French Pledge More Troops for Mali As Air Strikes Continue” by Steven Erlanger, Alan Cowell and Adam Nossiter.

    Our interview about the situation in Mali with Adam Nossiter from a couple weeks ago.

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    Adam Nossiter

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    New York Times

    Interviews

  1. Adam Nossiter on some of the steps Al Qaeda in Mali has taken to repress culture:








The Al Qaeda group, especially in Timbuktu … has set about the systematic destruction of the above-ground mausoleums, some of them centuries-old, that the local people … venerate because they contain the remains of people considered saints in the Sufi religion. And so they’ve systematically taken pickaxes and hammers to these monuments and leveled them, and this has been very, very shocking for the people in Timbuktu. They’ve expressed their horror to me over the phone shortly after having witnessed this. They’ve also banned any kind of music — and, of course, Mali has a very rich musical culture — but even so far as banning musical ring tones on cell phones. If they catch you with a cell phone that plays a tune, they’ll confiscate it and they’ll punish you. The only thing you can have on your cell phone is a verse from The Koran.








Image of Timbuktu by Emilio Labrador via Flickr Commons

    Adam Nossiter on some of the steps Al Qaeda in Mali has taken to repress culture:

    The Al Qaeda group, especially in Timbuktu … has set about the systematic destruction of the above-ground mausoleums, some of them centuries-old, that the local people … venerate because they contain the remains of people considered saints in the Sufi religion. And so they’ve systematically taken pickaxes and hammers to these monuments and leveled them, and this has been very, very shocking for the people in Timbuktu. They’ve expressed their horror to me over the phone shortly after having witnessed this. They’ve also banned any kind of music — and, of course, Mali has a very rich musical culture — but even so far as banning musical ring tones on cell phones. If they catch you with a cell phone that plays a tune, they’ll confiscate it and they’ll punish you. The only thing you can have on your cell phone is a verse from The Koran.

    Image of Timbuktu by Emilio Labrador via Flickr Commons



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    West Africa

  1. The transformation of northern Mali into a sanctuary for terrorists and the subjection of its people to medieval cruelties are a threat to the entire West African region. But even with the Security Council vote, it seems unrealistic to expect an effective solution anytime soon.

    — 

    "No Easy Answers In Mali," The New York Times Opinion Pages, December 30, 2012

    Coming up today on the show, Adam Nossiter, West Africa bureau chief for the Times, talks about the current crisis in Mali.

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    The New York Times

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