Festival au Désert

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Audience at the Festival au Desert near Timbuktu, Mali 2012
Tuaregs at the January 2012 Festival au Désert in Timbuktu, just before the MNLA launched the Azawadi rebellion later in the same month.

The Festival au désert ("Festival in the Desert") is an annual concert in Mali, showcasing traditional Tuareg music as well as music from around the world. The first Festival took place in Tin Essako in 2001 and then it moved in 2002 to Tessalit in the Kidal region of North-Eastern Mali. From 2003 until 2009 the festival was held in Essakane, 65km from Timbuktu, but because of security issues, from 2010 the festival was held on the outskirts of Timbuktu.[1][2]

The Tuareg band Tinariwen first garnered international attention with their performance at the 2001 Festival.

A French-language documentary entitled Le Festival au Désert was filmed at the 2003 festival. Performers include Tartit, Oumou Sangaré, Lo'Jo, Tinariwen, Robert Plant with Justin Adams, Blackfire, Khaira Arby and her band, Django, and Ali Farka Touré.[3] The DVD contains English subtitles, and an audio CD of the concert, Festival in the Desert, was also released.

The documentary Dambé: The Mali Project tells the story of a cross-cultural musical adventure over 3000 miles by two Irish musicians, that features performances from the Festival au désert.[4]

Shortly after the January 2012 festival, the Northern Mali conflict began, resulting in the postponement of the 2013 festival.[5] In July and August 2013, Tartit, Imharhan, and Mamadou Kelly toured throughout North America as the Festival au Desert - Caravan for Peace.[5][6][7] An audio recording of the 2012 edition Festival au Desert Live from Timbuktu was released in 2013 featuring performances by 18 artists with supplemental digital bonus performances.

The Festival has continued to be postponed due to security concerns in the region.

Several documentary films have been made about the Festival including The Last Song Before the War and Woodstock in Timbuktu. Other documentary films are in production.


  1. ^ Tombouctou : Le Festival du Désert aura bien lieu (in French), Primature: Portail Officiel du Governement Mali, 28 October 2010, archived from the original on 24 September 2015, retrieved 25 December 2011 .
  2. ^ Togola, Diakaridia (11 January 2010), "Festival sur le désert : Essakane a vibré au rythme de la 10ème édition", Le Quotidien de Bamako (in French), retrieved 25 December 2011 .
  3. ^ Festival in the Desert on IMDb
  4. ^ Dambé: The Mali Project on IMDb
  5. ^ a b "Caravan for Peace: Mali's Call for Peaceful, Dialogue Comes to the US this Summer" (Press release). Rock Paper Scissors. 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  6. ^ Rohter, Larry (2013-07-30). "Musical Nomads, Escaping Political Upheaval". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  7. ^ Eyre, Banning (2013-07-19). "Caravan Pour la Paix Brings Mali Desert Vibe to Montreal". Afropop Worldwide. World Music Productions. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 

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