If I had the money to go anywhere in the world after going to Rwanda to see wild mountain gorillas, and after going to Madagascar to see the world's last remaining lemurs in a highly endangered landscape peppered with the baobabs of Little Prince fame, I would go to Mali to the Festival du Desert to hear the music that has come to be my go-to choice for just about any purpose.
In the final days of dissertation writing, Malian music has and continues to fuel my fire to burn through the last remaining points I want to make about my research.
My favorites lately are Amadou and Mariam. Their song Chantez-chantez always makes me happy when I hear it and it is also one of the first Malian songs for which I could understand nearly every single word. Walide is another great one, also intelligible to anyone who understands some French.
I can't make out all of the words to Walide, so in a vain and lazy effort to locate the Cliff Notes (i.e. its lyrics), I learned this instead:
Amadou et Mariam, once billed as The Blind Couple of Mali, are just that, a blind husband and wife musical act. Guitarist Amadou met singer Mariam at the Institute for Young Blind People in Bamako, Mali. They are Bambara, significant because Bambara music bears obvious resemblances to American blues. Their largely acoustic debut, 'Sou Ni Tile', connects America's Mississippi delta, Mali and the Middle East.
Read more and listen to their music.