Habib Koite - The modern griot).
|Dorothea in the field|
"So," I said, "if you are a modern griot without nobility, who cares for you?" He laughed as he answered me, after thinking for a moment, and cited his audiences all over the world, from Norway to Michigan, buying tickets and turning out to hear him sing and play. He spoke about the warmth and spontaneity that came from recording this work, about home place, and harmony, and a feeling of belonging, from the comfort of his own home. He noted this move was partly a response to the growing expense of producing albums. But it was also his response to changes in his lineup of musicians, in his own life, and his focus on how home comes to be, and the work it takes to make peace at every level, from households to communities to states, like Mali.
|Habib at the Hague|
|From left, IHIH founders Sara Cwiek, Hugh Stimson, and Jennifer Johnson|
archive from Hot in Here's first season, 2008. It was haunting to hear
my own voice, expertly guided by SNRE alumna and radio professional
Sara Cwiek, now reporting on Detroit for Michigan radio. She led me through a discussion about natural resource conflict and social violence in central Africa. To hear Habib talking last Friday, things have only gotten more challenging in that part of the world, where social and sectarian violence surge like horrible symptoms of festering conflicts over land, water, and other resources in these parts of Africa at present. This socio-environmental malady compromises states
that were already struggling as containers for diverse, prosperous, peaceful communities. As Habib put it, "our country's flag, the flag of Mali, has been throw into the mud. It will require every person's hands, all working together, to lift it out and make it proud again."
He listened with empathetic sadness as I spoke of related violence unfolding at present in sites where I have worked in Central African Republic (CAR). We both know that similar situations such as that in Darfur, Sudan, have ceased to draw so much international attention and student activism on campuses like UM, but they have not ceased to simmer, and to cause suffering. Habib's music is both a balm and an urgent call for engagement on these questions. You can learn more about the conflict in CAR here. You can learn more about Habib's music on his website.
Better yet, be his nobility. Come out to the Ark on Tuesday night, and celebrate the beautiful sides of the human spirit: fingers dancing on strings, bodies dancing and voices lifting, together, despite the darkness.