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Published: 2012/09/24
by Kiran Herbert

Musicians for Mali—Toubab Krewe and Friends Bring Awareness to Malian Crisis Through Benefit Concert at the City Winery

Mali, the small land-locked country in the northwest of Africa, is in the midst of a political crisis. Earlier this year Tuareg rebels from neighboring Libya crossed the border into Mali from the north, while in the south the government was overthrown by a military coup. The Tuareg took control of the north, declaring it an independent nation, while another Tuareg fraction—Islamist militants called Ansar Dine—joined forces yet eventually won the upper hand.

The two groups have very different aims: the former wants independence for the Tuareg people and the formation of a state called Azawad, while the latter have imposed Shariah Law of a kind reminiscent of the Taliban. The north is in a state of disarray with crime on the rise, women having lost their rights, and with music, the staple and lifeblood of Malian culture, having been banned. Mali is extremely poor, and with refugees fleeing in unprecedented numbers—turning the cities of Gao, Kidal, and Timbuktu into virtual ghost towns—Toubab Krewe organized a benefit concert at New York’s the City Winery to raise money and awareness for those people that urgently need help.

The event, which took place on September 22, was a fantastic display of solidarity and Malian culture, with famous African artists traveling far to be part of it. A joint effort by Afropop, the Malian Cultural Center (based in NYC), and Toubab Krewe, the concert raised funds for Relief International and Instruments4Africa, two organizations found to be extremely worthy of the night’s donations.

The benefit was packed full of incredible performances, beginning with Banning Eyre and Friends, and including, Benyoro,who at one point had the entire audience on their feet, Oran Etkin, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, and Balla Kouyate, considered among the best balafon players in the world. The night also saw many speakers and video clips, urging people to donate and thanking them for their time and contributions. NY Senator Bill Perkins made an appearance to pledge his support and emphasize the catastrophic nature of these political events, both at home and in Mali. The night closed with Toubab Krewe taking the stage for an especially intimate performance, before being joined by virtually every artist they could fit on the City Winery’s small stage. To see both traditional and contemporary West African music throughout the night only made the African inspiration of extremely original and genre-transcending Toubab Krewe all the more apparent. At one point there were twenty people on stage; it was an unbelievable and inspired finale to a night of the talent and culture of a country currently at risk of losing it.

For more information on the performers and to donate to the cause, check out Afropop’s webpage for the event.

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