One of Mali's biggest stars, the singer-songwriter Salif Keita, says music can help bring peace and reconciliation to his homeland, which has been torn apart by an Islamist uprising in the north.
Mali may be in the headlines now for the conflict that erupted between Islamists who tried to take over the country and the government, which persuaded France to help chase them out. But in peaceful times, it has been famous rather for its rich cultural traditions – especially its musicians, whose songs are loved around the world.
One of Mali's biggest stars, the singer-song writer Salif Keita, says music can help bring peace and reconciliation in his homeland that has been torn apart by the war.
"The rest of the world – they have to know that Mali is one. Mali has never been two," the musician, a descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire and dubbed the Golden Voice of Africa, told BBC World Service presenter Mark Coles.
Mali's conflict began in early 2012 when Tuareg rebels led an uprising in the north, which resulted in the country being split in two. The Tuareg uprising was soon hijacked by better-armed and wealthier Islamist groups, who for 10 months controlled Mali's north before being ousted by French and Malian troops last month.
While in control, the Islamists imposed a harsh version of Islamic law. They carried out public whippings of people accused of adultery, punished others with amputations, forced women to veil their faces – and banned music from local radio stations.
Keita said he feared there could be revenge attacks on the Tuaregs, who are a semi-nomadic pastoralist people of North African Berber origin, spread across desert areas of the Sahel. Tuareg groups in northern Mali have long complained of being neglected and marginalized by the government, which rules from far away in the south. But Keita said the Tuareg rebels had "brought" the Islamists into their areas, with terrible results for ordinary people.
"The problem in the north is between black people and white [lighter-skinned] people – we have to find a solution for that," he said.