Journalist Andy Morgan spent a big part of his career managing bands from Mali, most notably the Touareg group Tenariwen.
Last Friday, as news came out about the shooting at the Bataclan in Paris, he couldn't help but remember when Tenariwen played that venue.
“In the landscape of French showbiz, the Bataclan is one of those ‘arrival’ venues. Once you’ve played there, you know your ship has come in,” he wrote in an essay entitled, “The Bataclan and the battle for music.”
Tenariwen played the venue back in 2007. And it was an experience like no other recalls Morgan.
“It was just a sense of intensity. Suddenly, we were in a much bigger venue. Robert Plant had been invited to play with the band,” remembers Morgan.
The tour bus was parked outside of the club, he says, and as the band’s lead singer and founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib went out to the tour bus, he was mobbed by fans from North Africa.
“For me, it was a revelation because what I started to realize was that Tenariwen was starting to have a major impact in North Africa. They’re seen as spearheading a Berber revival in music. There were Berber flags in the venue and the Touareg are a part of the Berber family and that to me was new and very exciting.”
Mali has been experiencing its own internal conflict since 2012. A rebellion by Touareg fighters quickly drew Islamic fighters and the French Army into the fighting. And they continue to battle things out, primarily in the vast Saharan desert in the northeast part of the country.
The Bataclan, says Morgan, wasn’t just any soft target.
“ISIS, they espouse a Wahhabist philosophy that says that all music is sinful and Mali is a clear example of this. When Jihadist occupied the north of Mali in 2012 they banned any form of music. Ideologically the people who run ISIS they absolutely hate the western culture of music of rock n’ roll of freedom, that kind of freedom is something that is completely anathema to them so I think it was very very specifically targeted for that reason," he says.
“Anyone who walks out onto any stage — in Paris, or London, or Madrid, Melbourne, Mumbai and Osaka — is now in the front line of that battle,” Morgan wrote in his essay. “Music itself is on the front line.”