The Remotest Festival on Earth: For Centuries, the Tuareg Nomads of the Sahara Have Gathered at Oases to Make Music and Race Camels. Recently, One Such Event in Mali Has Become One of the Hottest Dates in the World Music Calendar. Beatrice Newbery Pays a Visit and Finds That the Festival in the Desert May Hold the Key to Boosting the Country's Tourism Industry

By Newbery, Beatrice | Geographical, June 2004 | Go to article overview

The Remotest Festival on Earth: For Centuries, the Tuareg Nomads of the Sahara Have Gathered at Oases to Make Music and Race Camels. Recently, One Such Event in Mali Has Become One of the Hottest Dates in the World Music Calendar. Beatrice Newbery Pays a Visit and Finds That the Festival in the Desert May Hold the Key to Boosting the Country's Tourism Industry


Newbery, Beatrice, Geographical


There's little beyond the remote Malian town of Timbouctou but a vast expanse of desert. Most people consider it the end of the Earth, and even its residents rarely venture north into the Sahara. But for one day in January, a host of musicians, MPs, tourists and technicians gather in the town's market place, preparing to head north into the dunes. As people fill their Jeeps with diesel and supplies and travellers send quick postcards home, it's hard not to get swept up in the excitement and anticipation of the remotest music festival on Earth.

To get as far as Timbouctou, I spent three days driving from Mali's capital, Bamako, and four hours queuing for a small ferry over the River Niger. But as the convoy of four-wheel drives heads into the dunes, chucking up dust behind it, it becomes clear that the final stretch is the trickiest part of the journey. The track is soon lined with Jeeps overheating or stuck in deep sand. I later hear that even the famous Malian musician Ali Farke Toure and the country's minister of culture had problems. One group of tourists tells me that their Jeep broke down within earshot of the music, but they dared not venture on foot into the desert. The next day they found they were ten minutes' walk from the festival site.

The Tuareg, a nomadic group who inhabit the Sahara, have the most appropriate form of transport, arriving on white camels from every direction. In all, there are 1,800 of them at the festival. It isn't surprising, because the event, now in its fourth year, grew out of an annual Tuareg get-together that has taken place on this spot, near the tiny village of Essakane, for centuries.

"We have always met at this oasis to arrange marriages, swap news, race camels and make music," says Manny Ansar, the event's Tuareg organiser. "We decided to open up this festival so that our musicians can mix with others. It's time for our community to get in touch with the outside world."

As the Tuareg cook over campfires and feed their camels under the acacia trees, the tourists settle into their camel-hide tents and explore the festival site. But soon everyone is heading towards the concrete stage built into the sand, a strange sight in the middle of acacia scrub and sand. The sun goes down, and charcoal braziers light up the dunes. Then, after the long introductory speeches have ended, bands from Senegal, Niger, Mauritania and Mali take the stage one by one, playing calabashes strung with cowrie shells, lutes and talking drums. There's a brass band from Benin, a woman's group from Senegal and a group of dancers from the Wadaabe tribe of Niger that is bedecked with beads and covered in okra stripes. There are some Western performers too, including Damon Albarn from Blur and the singer Manu Chao, although the Welsh trombone group and the Navaho Indian band Blackfire aren't to everyone's taste. As the members of Blackfire hit their electric guitars and yell into the microphones, an old Malian lady with a bundle on her back claps her hands over her ears and scuttles off. My neighbour in the crowd, 21-year-old Aly Dicko, whispers, "Some older people, they think this is crazy music."

While the line-up is diverse, Tuareg bands feature more prominently than any others. Their Tuareg fans watch from the seats of their camels. From the ground, it's hard to see over the hundreds of indigo turbans that are standard attire for the tribesmen. This is clearly a Tuareg event, but there is little sense of being an outsider. As I shovel sand to try to gain some height, my Tuareg neighbours usher me forward for a better view. The sense of intimacy and respect among the small crowd is remarkable.

There's no sign that, until six years ago, these people were conducting a bloody fight for recognition within Mali. Marked by a huge bonfire in Bamako, into which Tuareg rebels threw their weapons, a 1996 peace deal gained them representation in government. Today, even Mali's prime minister is a Tuareg. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Remotest Festival on Earth: For Centuries, the Tuareg Nomads of the Sahara Have Gathered at Oases to Make Music and Race Camels. Recently, One Such Event in Mali Has Become One of the Hottest Dates in the World Music Calendar. Beatrice Newbery Pays a Visit and Finds That the Festival in the Desert May Hold the Key to Boosting the Country's Tourism Industry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.