BBC’s internet services carried this slide and sound account of the 2007 Essakane festival in far off Mali; this is one music festival I would really like to attend. Snippets of songs crop up on NPR or PRI (especially The World), and on PBS, and in record stores with really savvy staff — or where Putumayo discs are on sale. Everything I have heard from these festivals is very, very good.
Robert Plant helped make it famous with his 2003 performance. But its fame is relative; it’s famous only among a select group of people — those who have heard the music.
[Alas, Vodpod died, and the video that I had captured via that service seems to appear nowhere else on the web. If you should find the piece by Paula Dear which the BBC broadcast in 2007, please note it in comments.]
Geography teachers, think of the possibilities this festival offers for fun in the classroom! Adam Fisher wrote about it for the New York Times a couple of years ago:
My real aim is Essakane, an obscure desert oasis a half-day’s drive beyond Timbuktu, and the site of what’s billed as the “most remote music festival in the world.” It’s a three-day Afro-pop powwow held by the Tuareg, the traditionally nomadic “blue people” of the Sahara.
It’s a tribe often feared for the banditry of its rebels and respected for the fact that it has never really been conquered. Historically its great power came from its role in the trans-Saharan trade in gold, slaves and salt. Even now, Tuareg caravans make the 15-day journey south from the northern salt mines to Timbuktu on the Niger River. They rest their camels during the day and use the stars to navigate at night. The skin tint of the nomads comes from the indigo dye they use for their turbans and robes, which leaves a permanent stain.
What more exciting stuff do you have in your classroom on the Tuareg? Does it resonate better with your teenagers than this story would?