Downtown Timbuktu, 1985. (Photo: Marco Werman)

Downtown Timbuktu, 1985.


(Photo: Marco Werman)

In 2002, Marco Werman from PRI's The World ventured to Mali.

One of the many talented musicians in the country he met at the time was Khaira Arby.

The singer of Moorish descent lived in Timbuktu at the time.

For her own security, she's since moved south to the capital Bamako. But in 2002, Werman met her in Timbuktu.

This was recorded over 10 years ago, but it’s eerie to hear music again from this city after Islamists last year banned music there.

While in Mali, Marco Werman also met guitarist Ali Farka Toure at his farm in the village of Niafunke in the north of the country. Toure, one of the country's musical legends, retired from touring the world in 2002. He had spent a lot of his life on the road, performing for fans around the world. But more than anything, he was dedicated to Niafunke. He told Werman that with a life as rich as the one he had, what he most wanted to do in retirement was to help Niafunke. This is a story about a musician who stopped playing music, not because Islamists told him to. But because Toure had a higher personal calling.