By Kizzi Asala and Sasha GANKIN
Music of the Desert Sands
This island in the middle of the Niger River in the city of Koulikoro hosts — for the second time, the Ag’Na Festival.
On Hiatus since 2012, Manny Ansar — the director of both the Ag’Na Festival and the Festival au Désert, revived the legendary festival whose name translates to “culture” in the Tamasheq language.
He founded in the Timbuktu Desert near the Malian capital Bamako on a sandy island that reminds him of his homeland, Niger.
There has been a lot of nostalgia surrounding the missed Festival au Désert missed by music lovers as it is a huge tourist attraction.
But the new Ag’Na festival is nevertheless a meeting ground for artists from all over Mali and a platform for those displaced by the security crisis.
Asnar shares the root of his inspiration.
“This festival was born out of an idea to take a bit from the Festival au Désert in the south of Mali because we can’t hold it in Timbuktu at the moment.
“We found a place with a bit of the desert… that’s what we have here in the middle of the Niger River. in Koulikoro, a few kilometres from Bamako artists from the North of Mali of the refugee camps and of the South. They can meet again as they did in Timbuktu.”
International African Artists
Songhoy Blues is a group founded in Bamako in 2012 by musicians who left their hometowns in the North following the installation of Sharia law as they could no longer make the music that the loved.
The now internationally renowned band has been touring the globe and gave their first concert in Timbuktu.
Au AG’NA festival in #Koulikoro, meeting with Zeinabou Wallette Oumar, displaced woman from M’ber camp
Aliou Touré of Songhoy Blues goes over the general feeling of musical nostalgia amongst the people in the region.
“These people were longing for the event. It’s been missing for so many years that he didn’t have a festival there. So it is more than necessary for them to have music here again.
Timbuktu was always a great crossroads of music.”
Cultural Healing Via Art
The young artist Kader Terhanine, the rising star of Tuareg music has become one of Mali’s most beloved artists.
Kader’s dream is to perform one day in front of his fans at the mythical festival in the Desert.
Live AG’NA festival in koulikoro
The budding talent outlines his artistic ambitions and hopes for the local communities — as far as multicultural solidarity and coming together.
“I play music for everyone. Music has no borders. Today, I play in Koulikoro but I would like to play freely —also in Kidal, in Menaka, in Gao and in Timbuktu.
Let us hope that peace returns soon and with peace the events and also the economic activities.”