Music as a peace maker

For the 10th time, the Academy is behind the “SPOT on Mali” festival in Bamako, Mali, where local upcoming names get a platform and an opportunity to reach out more widely in the music industry. The festival takes place this Friday-Saturday 12-13 January 2024.

Since the 1980s, international artists and music industry professionals have traveled to Mali to discover the country’s musical gems. Salif Keita, Rokia Traore and Oumou Sangare are examples of older musicians who have played on major stages in Roskilde and in DR. Newer names such as Tinariwen, Songhoy Blues, Fatoumata Diawara, Amadou & Mariam are examples of artists from Mali who will be familiar to, for example, listeners at DR P6.

Like the Spot festival in Aarhus, “SPOT on Mali” is an industry festival. RAMA started the festival in Mali in 2010. This year’s festival is the 10th organized by RAMA, the political conditions have made it impossible to carry out the festival every year. There are again visits by international industry professionals, but not to the same extent as before Mali’s deroute began in 2012. This year, a small delegation from Denmark is participating.

Peace and reconciliation

In Mali, music is more than just entertainment. The musicians traditionally sing about topics that can be critical of society or touch on taboos in culture and tradition. The Malians are experts in expressing themselves symbolically, so that they can sneak their messages into the listeners. In fact, music, culture and art are important parts to create reconciliation and peace in Mali. The music can literally bind the population together.

Therefore, the festival’s theme “Peace and reconciliation” is not just a clever slogan, it refers directly to RAMA’s Mali programme: “Peace building and reconciliation through artistic citizenship for young artists in Mali (2021-25)”. The program is supported by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Danish Embassy in Bamako on the basis of an impartial evaluation of RAMA’s previous cultural program in Mali, including “SPOT on Mali”. The evaluation was not just positive; it recommended that the cultural program should be expanded.

RAMA’s program in Mali has three legs: the Spot on Mali festival, capacity building (teaching and exchange between two conservatories in Mali and RAMA) and a fund that supports young Malian start-ups in music and art. The evaluation from 2021 of the previous program pointed out, among other things, that it has succeeded in bringing musicians from different musical and ethnic groups together. And through capacity building at the music conservatory in Bamako, it has succeeded in contributing to the preservation of the country’s musical heritage and in building a national pride in it.

Harsh political conditions

The political conditions in Mali have long made it difficult for the international exposure of Malian culture. It was completely glaring when jihadists occupied the northern part of Mali in 2012 and banned all music. Although Mali was then liberated from the jihadists, religious fundamentalists are gaining support in their demand to replace Mali’s secular constitution with a strict interpretation of Sharia. In recent years, the military has seized power in Mali, and freedom of expression is under severe pressure.

Nevertheless, RAMA continues to work with its program in Mali to the extent possible. Among other things. with this year’s SPOT on Mali festival.

More news