I went back to Africa last month, on a sunday just like today, four weeks ago exactly. Ok, it was a short trip. Two hours back and forth. 🙂
Salif Keita was giving a unique concert in Mexico city. We jumped on the occasion. The concert was held at the Teatro de la ciudad, a cozy, charming 19th century affair, nicely restored. I don’t think there were more than five or six hundred people present including 90% of Mexico’s African Expats: two, maybe three hundred people?
Salif Keita is from Mali. One of Africa’s – and the world’s – greatest contemporary musicians. Some call him “the golden voice of Africa”. He is also an albino. Both a curse and a paradox in Africa. A curse, because albino babies in Africa are considered bad omen in many tribes. Sometimes killed at birth. And a paradox: he is a “white”, colourless African. He splits his life, I understand between Bamako and Paris, and has created a Foundation in Africa to fight prejudice against albinos.
I have lived in many cities in Africa, never in Bamako, the capital of Mali, but that night Salif Keita and his band took me back to Africa:
Friday is I believe a holy day in Islam. Christians have Sunday. Jews have the Shabbat, but Friday is the day of the Great Prayer at the Mosque. Last Friday, “Bullies” killed more people. Not in Beyrouth, not in Paris. In Bamako, capital of Mali, home to Salif Keita. Embassies and governments rushed in to say “No nationals” involved in the killings. I wish foreign affairs reps would stop. Who cares about the nationality of the victims? Human beings, once again, were killed by bullies. Why do I say “bullies”? deadly “bullies”? ‘coz that’s all they are: bullies. And why is bullying spreading in schools around the world? Because all avert their eyes. A bloody nose or two in the school yard is not unheard of, but weeks, months of bullying the same “little” boys or girls, and no-one sees, says, does anything?
We have become the three monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, (say no evil) with a fourth monkey: let the evil spread. Do nothing. Ah! There was a bomb in Beyrouth. Who cares? They’ve had many. There were shootings in Paris. OMG. Isn’t “Sally” on a tour in Europe? But no, the adults, the teachers, the juniors or seniors avert their eye when someone’s bullied in the schoolyard, in the world yard. Our yard! And the bullying goes on.
Keita’s song: “In the past whatever happened no-one wanted to know.”
“To-day, you’re supposed to take part.
Whatever’s happening you’re all asked to take part”
(If you’ve skipped the video, don’t cheat, click on it, it has subttitles. I don’t speak Malinké or Manding) 🙂
That sunday evening, a month ago, I was back in the Africa of my childhood. The magic house stuck between the sea and the Traditional African village. Yes with huts like the ones in the video. And the women making millet flour and the villagers throwing a “party” every night. I swear, there was always an occasion to celebrate: a birth, making palm wine, crops, a good fish catch, whatever, with music, cora, balafon, drums. Some nights the masks came out. A big, magical affair we were not supposed to watch. And (almost) every night my little sister and I would go to sleep to the wonderful sound of (west) african music.
Again that sunday evening in Mexico, I would listen to Salif Keita’s voice, the Cora (A west african instrument. Unique sound. Look it up) the voices of the choir women, long, long, with endless hands and legs, who could not stop dancing even when they were sitting.
The concert ended up with everybody (almost) climbing and dancing on the stage, invited by Keita. There were a few very good traditional dance steps from Guinea I recognized.
Now the bullies have hit again. In Bamako. On a Friday, the holy Day. Today is Sunday, and as I mentioned, Sunday has a special meaning for Christians. But, also in Bamako (Mainly muslims). In Bamako, Sunday is the wedding day. Strange, but makes sense. The typical Christian wedding day is Saturday. Sunday is for Church and Mass. I confess not knowing what day Jewish weddings are conducted. Probably not on Saturday. The following artists are Amadou and Mariam , blind singers from Mali. It is called: Le dimanche à Bamako c’est le jour des mariages. (Sunday in Bamako is the day for weddings)
The song is in French. No subtitles I’m afraid. Doesn’t matter. Let yourselves be carried away by the sound of the cora and the Balafon, and Amadou and Mariam’s voices.
It is now sunday evening in Mexico. Sunday died away in Bamako a few hours ago. But next sunday? There will be weddings again in Bamako. And the brides will the prettiest. And the men will wear their best clothes. And there will be music.
Même pas peur.
Not even afraid.