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Mali Blues

Mali Blues

The West African country of Mali is widely recognized as the birthplace of the blues, later carried by the transatlantic slave trade to America's cotton fields. Yet despite centuries of rich tradition, the music and musicians of Mali are today in life-threatening danger. As the prevalence of radical Islamism and sharia law grows, dance and secular music are prohibited, musical instruments are destroyed, and musicians are increasingly forced to flee to protect themselves and their families.

The cinematic documentary film MALI BLUES is a journey following four musicians: Fatoumata 'Fatou' Diawara is a rising star on the global pop scene (who was memorably featured in Abderrahmane Sissako's acclaimed drama TIMBUKTU). Bassekou Kouyate is a celebrated ngoni player and traditional griot. Master Soumy is a young street rapper influenced by hip-hop who often perform in local nightclubs. Ahmed Ag Kaedi is the leader of the Tuareg band Amanar and guitar virtuoso. Each musician discusses their country's rich musical culture and the way they are bringing past traditions together with new influences to make it their own. Though they each takes a different approach to their music, they have something in common: they refuse to accept hatred, suspicion, violence or fundamentalism, and instead create music to unite, comfort, and inspire peace.

'Nuanced meditations on the limbo of the diaspora and celebrations of Mali's ethnic plurality color the fabric of this film, which vibrates with urgency and life. The showcase of Mali's ripe musical heritage-from ngoni riffs to pulsating percussions and soulful raps-connects and engages audiences in the combat against silence and demand for explanations. Opening the room for honest conversations about long-standing traditions, including those that are due to be broken, this documentary is at its bravest when tackling real issues that threaten its subjects' collective voice. The goosebump-inducing sequence in which Fatou heroically denounces female circumcision not only serves to advocate music's potential in affecting real-life practices, but also marks a zenith of the music documentary genre.' - Cinema Scope

'[MALI BLUES] follows Fatou as she prepares for her first concert in her home country of Mali, a place with a deeply rich music history that was threatened when Islamic fundamentalists banned music in 2012. A colorful, vivid look at Fatou's complicated history with her home, Mali Blues is both a triumph for Fatou and for Mali's music traditions.' - CBC Music


Main credits

Gregor, Lutz (film director)
Beetz, Christian (film producer)
Diawara, Fatoumata (performer)
Kouyate, Bassekou (performer)
Soumy, Master (performer)
Kaedi, Ahmed Ag (performer)

Other credits

Director of photography, Axel Schneppat; editing, Markus Cm Schmidt, Michelle Barbin.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

African Studies
Black Studies
French Culture
Women's Studies


; "Mali Blues"; Icarus Films; Lutz Gregor; Fatoumata "Fatou" Diawara; Bassekou Kouyate; Master Soumy; Ahmed Ag Kaedi; Africa; music; blues; fundamentalism; Islam; Abderrahmane Sissako; Timbuktu; ngoni; hip-hop; Tuareg; Amanar;

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