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Orphans of the Sahara

Toumast: Music and identity

The band headed by a former Tuareg liberation fighter uses music as testimony about the struggle for self-rule.

Last updated: 08 Jan 2014 14:16
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The Tuareg band Toumast [Photo courtesy of Toumast]

It is said that a nomad who has spent his life among the compounds of the Sahara desert is hardly ever inclined leave it.

But Moussa Ag Keyna, the lead singer of Tuareg band Toumast, says that behind that smile, the nomad on his camel hides many problems.

"He hides his sadness over the way the Touareg life has changed, the way the desert is slowly swallowing everything up, the political repression of our people. No one wants the Tuaregs to find their own place in the desert, to find a way of staying there," he says.

Moussa was born in a valley on the border between Mali and Niger, deep in the Sahara desert, and music was always a part of his life. In the 1990s, he founded Toumast. More than two decades later, now with band member Aminatou Goumar, he is still singing.

"Tuaregs are people who sing. We sing as we follow our camels, going to find water, that's just part of our life, our culture: we sing," he says.

But things were not always easy. The continued rebellion against the governments of Mali and Niger saw Moussa caught up in the fight. Then, after years of combat and resistance, he was severely wounded and evacuated to France.

Toumast's albums today are a testimony about the years of combat and disillusion experienced by the Tuareg. The songs contain topics precious to the Ishumar: the nostalgia of the nomadic life, love, the bitter taste of exile and the criticism of politics.

The name 'Toumast' means 'identity', Moussa says. "I chose that name because I was part of the Tuareg rebellion, where everything we did was for the Tuareg identity. Even music was created in order to give existence to our identity."

Toumast's music is featured in the Al Jazeera film Orphans of the Sahara. For more on the band, visit their official website: www.toumast.net 

Listen:

Orphans of the Sahara can be seen each week from January 9, 2014, at the following times GMT: Thursday: 2000; Friday: 1200; Saturday: 0100; Sunday: 0600; Monday: 2000; Tuesday: 1200; Wednesday: 0100.

Watch more Orphans of the Sahara

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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