Sunday, July 3, 2016

Mali, West Africa Singer Khaira Arby (pancocojams series: Music In Islamic West Africa)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides information about the Malian singer Khaira Arby and showcases five YouTube videos of her songs. Selected comments from some of these videos' discussion thread are also included in this post.

This is the first post in a continuing pancocojams series about music in Islamic Africa. Click the tab below for other posts in this series.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Khaira Arby for her for musical legacy. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

INFORMATION ABOUT KHAIRA ARBY (also given as "Haira Arby")
Excerpt #1:
From Khaira Arby: Mali's Reigning Queen Of Song; August 31, 2010; BANNING EYRE
"In "Waidio," singer Khaira Arby insists that women must be free to pursue their own happiness.
Khaira Arby is the reigning queen of song in Timbuktu, Mali. She's been writing and singing in the indigenous languages of her Sahara Desert region — Sonrhai, Tamaschek, Bambara, Arabic — for decades. Her robust voice, roiling grooves and direct lyrics, often addressing sensitive issues, have made her a legend in her own time. Arby's debut international CD release (Timbuktu Tarab) and her first U.S. tour are giving Americans their first glimpses of a desert rose. But, as they'll discover, that rose has both a beautiful crimson flower and razor-sharp thorns.

Perhaps Arby's greatest social impact in a conservative Islamic milieu has been her advocacy on behalf of women. She divorced a controlling husband to pursue a career in music. (She's since remarried.) As a singer, she's opened the door to a generation of artistic women who now follow in her footsteps. Arby has also sung against the practice of female genital mutilation, and in "Waidio," she decries the "anguish of women," insisting that they must be free to pursue their own happiness. Arby asks, "Why, in a country of beautiful women, do men go to war?" The song showcases Arby's powerful vocal in her first language, Sonrhai, as well as the amazingly tight groove of her electric-guitar-driven band."

Excerpt #2:
From "Music, Spirituality, And Islam In Africa" by Thembi Mutch, March 7, 2013
..."A couple of thousand miles west of Sudan in Mali, the tensions between contrasting interpretations of the role of music for Muslims was been brought into particularly sharp, and often tragic, focus following the takeover of the north by Islamist militants last year.

Khaïra Arby, looking regal in her striking head wrap and plush blue dress, her face lined and tired, just got off a plane from Mali. “Yes, it’s true, I’ve seen it myself; they will cut off your tongue if you sing,” she says. “I’ve seen friends who’ve had their hands cut off for the ringtones on their mobile phones.”

Arby, adored across Mali, is affectionately called the nightingale of the North. Born in the village of Abaradjou, north of Timbuktu, her parents came from different ethnic backgrounds – her mother Songhai, her father Berber. Arby’s music, which is more popular at home than the music of her internationally famous cousin Salif Keita, captures northern Mali’s diversity of ethnic groups, styles and poetry.
After persistent threats and attacks from Islamists militants – including smashing up stereo systems in markets and people’s homes, confiscating radios and even SIM cards with music on them – Arby escaped to Bamako to stay with Salif Keita on his island on the river Niger just outside Mali’s capital of Bamako. Many Malian musicians are among the thousands who fled south since the crisis began.

Keita is also resigned. Before the international intervention against the Islamist rebels, he commented, “If there’s no music, no Timbuktu, it means that there is no more culture in Mali.” Indeed, Timbuktu is regarded as part of a chain of African kingdoms that had a long history of education, literature and intellectual life. It was the site of one of the largest Islamic libraries in Africa and a meeting point for scholars who debated and interpreted the Qur’an.

However, last year the Islamist rebels who took over the towns declared the shrines to be idolatrous and restricted forms of expression, such as music, that had been part of the fundamental fabric of everyday life. Like many Malians, Arby was bewildered. “There’s not a single part of the Qur’an that forbids music,” she says. “I’ve read it all, I can tell you honestly, there’s nothing in there that says don’t sing. I’ve never seen, never, that music is forbidden.”

In fact, Arby is highly sceptical as to the importance of religion at all in the motives of militants. “This war is about drug-running and arms trafficking. It’s about controlling important routes through a very long term trade area. It’s about money, politics and control. It’s not about religion,” she insists….

Meanwhile Arby states defiantly, “We have an obligation to sing, to dance, to respect, and to show appreciation for the suffering and the endurance and bravery of the people who are fighting for us, for those who cannot sing. We must compose beautiful songs before the war, during the war, and after the war, to celebrate what we have.”

This piece by Thembi Mutch was first published on Think Africa Press.
Click for the article about religion in Mali (as of 2015). That article is quoted in its entirety in the second post of this pancocojams series:

These videos are presented in chronological order based on their publishing date with the oldest video given first.
Example #1: the Timbuktu diva Khaira Arby : desert blues

afropop is the future ! Uploaded on Oct 13, 2008

she sings for her mother , the song is aigna
Selected comments from this video's discussion thread:
Susanne D7, 2008
"Where did you get this video?"

afropopstar, 2008
"i did it..."

akatiku, 2009
"What language she is singing?"

Monsieur Africain
"It is Songhai language"

Arlene McKenna, 2012
"Lovely. So sorry she and other musicians are being silenced by religious extremists in Mali right now."

ngoniba, 2013
"The guitar in this song is not that of Farka, is Hammane Touré."

Example #2: Mali: Khaira ARBY – Amandiath

Tyrus Maximus Uploaded on Jun 2, 2010

Haira Arby. music from Mali, West Africa.

Example #3: Khaïra ARBY, TIEBA BI MALI

maitreGABAUploaded on Jun 30, 2011

Khaïra ARBY, une artiste Malienne, la voix du désert. ce son me rappel de longues dates!

Google translate from French to English: a Malian artist, the voice of the desert. this sound reminds me of long dates!*
*"of long dates" = of long ago (or "of time past")
Selected comments from this video's discussion thread
Tcheta Douk, 2011
"Merci a toi d'avoir poster ce son, je l'ai tellement recherché.
Il me rappelle ma tendre enfance avec mon père qui nous faisait écouter le morceau et souvent meme jouait de sa guitare, ke de bons moments.
Merci papa de nous avoir transmit autant d'amour, quoiqu'il advienne aujourd'hui, sache ke nous tes enfants t'oublieront jamais et t'aimont plus que tout. Dieu nous benisse!!!
Thank you to you to have post this sound, I so desired."

[s]He reminds me reach my childhood with my father who made us listen to the song, and often even played his [her] guitar, ke good times.
Thank you dad have passed us so much love, whatever happens today, we know ke your children never forget you and you Aimont more than anything. God bless us !!!

Mama Diarra, 2015
"Je suis émue d'entendre cette chanson qui me rappelle mon adolescence au grand Mali Un grand merci à personne qui a posté cette magnifique chanson de Kahira Harbi. Qu' Allah bénis le Mali."

I am moved to hear this song that reminds me of my youth to the great Mali A big thank you to anyone who posted this beautiful song Kahira Harbi. May Allah bless Mali.

Example #4: Khaira Arby - AFH345

Afrikafestival Hertme Published on Feb 2, 2014

Distinguished diva from a point north of Timbuktu

Family connections don't always provide a leg-up on the ladder of life. Take Khaira Arby, for instance. Despite being a cousin of the mighty Ali Farka Toure, she was forbidden by her father to pursue her musical calling and instead bore a family. But domesticity couldn't extinguish that dream and a resolute Khaira reinvented herself. And aren't we glad. From a country where great singers grow on (baobab) trees, Khaira sits at the metaphorical top table and is known as 'the nightingale of Mali's north'. Indeed, while the capital Bamako becomes an ever-crowded musical marketplace, her location in a village near Timbuktu has allowed her to mark her own territory. And just as Timbuktu is a crossroads, Khaira's music heads out in different directions too. Of mixed Berber and Songhai parentage - and singing in Arabic, Songhai, Tamashek, Bambara and French - her spiky, occasionally psychedelicised take on her homeland's varied music has made her a true national hero. Despite Pop's best efforts.

Example #5: Khaira Arby Jazz & Joy Worms 2015

Khaira Arby Published on Mar 25, 2016

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