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Festival in the Desert Returns!

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It’s official! The 14th edition of the Festival in the Desert will be held near Timbuktu from January 9- 11, 2014. For those who haven’t followed our previous coverage, the Festival was founded in 2001 in an effort to bring increased cross-cultural exchange and economic development to Northern Mali. Recently another of the Festival’s goals– “to use culture as a means of nonviolent reconciliation”– has become especially relevant. 2012’s festival only barely missed the outbreak of separatist (and then Islamist) violence that not only canceled 2013’s edition altogether, but forced numerous northern artists from their homes.

Replacing 2013’s canceled Festival, the Caravan for Peace brought many of the artists from northern Mali to audiences around the world (we caught them in Montreal and New York), raising awareness of the situation in their home while refusing to allow their voices to fall silent. However, following a French military intervention and the election of a democratic government, the situation in Mali has grown increasingly stable, and the festival is once again able to be held at home. Further details will be posted in the coming days on the Festival’s website.

Want to see performers from the festival somewhere a little closer? Both Mamadou Kelly and Bassekou Kouyate will be performing at Afropop’s 25th Anniversary Gala Concert  on September 19 at the City Winery in Manhattan. From there, the rest of the Caravan will be traveling through Scandinavia, Morocco, Holland, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso before returning to Timbuktu for the Festival itself.

Want a feel for what the festival will be like once it returns? Read some coverage from our time at the festival’s 2004 edition.

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