Wow, color me impressed. Although the concert was a bit steep for my budget –– 15 euros per person –– it was more than worth the price.
The music was incredible: three hours of jazz/Malian traditional music fusion that veered from twangy, bluesy heartbreak to wild dancing rhythms so contagious that even the lanky, dignified mayor of Limours was clapping and bobbing along. Needless to say, they were amazing, especially considering they apparently only had two or three hours to practice before performing.
The band was called Magou & Dakar Transit, and included a fantastic guitarist who played both a finger-picking jazz style and a B.B. King-reminscent blues style, a thoroughly talented bassist, two excellent percussionists (one on a Western-style drum set and one, the only woman, on a large half-spherical drum that Wikipedia tells me was either a gita or a fileh and which sent a profound vibration throughout the entire auditorium). Finally, the astonishingly nimble-fingered Djeli Moussa Condé, who plays the kora or Malian bridge-harp, was there as a guest star. Thanks to my mother’s extensive and eclectic taste in music, I’ve listened to Malian musicians like Ali Farka Touré for most of my life, so I’m somewhat familiar a tiny, famous portion of Malian fusion music. But I’d never heard of a kora before last night, and I’m sorry for it, because I’ve been listening to recordings all morning and they’re uniformly beautiful.
Unexpectedly, the night turned out to be of some local political importance, too. Limours has been ‘twinned’ with Nioro du Sahel, a town in Mali, since 1983; Les Molières, one of Limours’s neighboring towns, has been twinned with another Malian town, Fégui, for as long, or so I gathered from the proceedings. This concert was not only to celebrate thirty years of “amitié” between the two countries, but to mark a renewing of the towns’ connection to one another. In addition, during the intermission, the mayors of Nioro du Sahel, Fégui, Limours, and Les Molières all sat down to sign financial paperwork that would allow Limours and Molières to pledge a fairly hefty sum to Fégui and Nioro over the next three years because drought has eaten away at those regions in recent seasons.
I guess it’s not the time to get philosophical, but I did think it was extremely interesting that, first of all, twinning between towns actually means something whereas in the States it’s a nice but ultimately meaningless gesture, and second of all, your average person seems significantly more aware of sovereign states and traditional regions within Africa as complex institutions with individual problems and individual needs in their own right, rather than just being aware of The Continent of Africa (Which Is Full of Suffering People), which is how I think we generally approach Africa in the U.S. I don’t know why this is the case, although it probably has something to do with France’s intensely complex history with North Africa and colonialism, but it was fascinating to watch.
I had no idea, when I moved to this little town, that so much big stuff would be happening here. It’s great!