Who hasn’t dreamed of going to Timbuktu? When I was young this name alone stood for somewhere exotic and far, far away. For me certainly, and I would guess for many others, Timbuktu was the last word in adventurous travel. But these days Timbuktu is on my mind for all the wrong reasons, ever since 2012 when Tuareg rebels occupied this ancient town in central Mali and set about destroying many of its ancient shrines and mausoleums.
This cultural ransacking was reportedly renewed with even greater fervour as a reaction to subsequent French military support for the besieged Mali government. Right now things remain in limbo.
Read this latest report: Timbuktu slowly turning to dust
All the above paints a dire future for what was once a fabled caravanserai and, for centuries, a centre of Islamic learning. It’s now highly unlikely I’ll ever go to Timbuktu. But in compensation Mali came to me in the form of enchanting Malian singer-guitarist Rokia Traoré.
She and her fellow musicians weave sinuous, soulful music. Such was the magical ambience of this graceful artist’s performance, I was transported to distant lands, mesmerised by the urgent, complicated, ever-shifting rhythms of Africa.
I’ve long been a fan of Malian music and admirer of Ali Farka Touré, Salif Keita, Toumani Diabaté, Oumou Sangaré and others. But being able to see, hear and and be deeply moved by Rokia Traoré in my home town was a special experience made all the more poignant by the situation existing in her own country.
Nothing brings people together as effectively as fine music. Nothing unites people more than travel, in both the physical and mental sense
Listen to this wonderful artist.