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Mali: a Musical Hearth

by admin on November 17, 2014

Since the beginning of the ancient Malian empire known as the Mandinka, dating back to 1230 A.D., Mali has been one of the most musically influential countries in the world. Much like Great Britain, Mali is made up of many separate cultures that are considered to be completely different. There are five main divisions, the Bombara, Tuareg, Dogon, Songhai and Fulani. They are, however, very loosely bound and have very little conflict amongst themselves. Although advancements in the making and playing of instruments in Mali have changed many aspects of their native sound, much of music in present day incorporates the original Mandinka style. With over sixty percent of Mali’s landmass being in the barren Sahara desert along with problems of deforestation and drought, much of the population has struggled with poverty and hunger. However, even more amazingly, with limited resources and healthcare Mali has been a hearth of instrument making. Instruments such as the banjo, xylophone, lute, and djembe drum are a few of the more well known instruments originated in Mali. Integrated into Malian music is a polyrhythmic style that combines this creative nature and multicultural identity with the struggles of the commoners and their environment. It is an understatement to say that music is a big part of Malian culture: it is the heart and soul of the native people. In Mali, and much of the African continent, dancing is hand and hand with musical influence. Each tribe or culture has their own dances that represent many things including their environment, society, and economic and political situations.

Many cultures and movements in the world throughout history have their ideas and morales presented through music. Although the same goes for the people of Mali, until two years ago the oppressive Malian government have used this influential art to their advantage. Many of the top musicians were sought out at an early age to join what is a sort of “state band”; persuaded by a decent salary, governmental benefits, and fair treatment, these talented peoples travel with the state and play songs of nationality and conformity. More recently the governmental structure has been changed to an executive democracy in which the people have much more power. Not only has the new system helped economically, but they’ve have also began setting up new environmental restrictions and organizations that increase the amount of potable water available. Today’s view of African culture in many parts of the world may be the idea that these primitive peoples have yet to advance into a more civilized stage; but in reality, many cases, such as Mali, have found ways to adapt to their environment and flourish in the face of hardship.

by Liam Walker

James Burns November 24, 2014 at 5:25 am

This is a very interesting topic. As someone who did not know a lot about this subject going into this article I am compelled to do more research and explore the development of this country rich music history. Your essay is brief but informative and certainty peaks the readers interest. Nice!

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