The Future is Equal

Albarn makes music for Mali and Oxfam

Damon Albarn and Malian musician Afel Bocoum perform together to draw attention to humanitarian and food crisis in the region

Damon Albarn and Malian musician Afel Bocoum perform together to draw attention to humanitarian and food crisis in the region

Last week, Malian singer and guitarist Afel Bocoum was joined in Mali by British musician Damon Albarn for a unique music project aimed at drawing international attention to the growing humanitarian crisis in Mali and to the regional food crisis in West and Central Africa.

Photo: Simon Phipps /OxfamMore than 18 million people in nine countries across the region are threatened by food shortages, including 1 million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. With the next harvests not due until September and October, the region is now entering the worst of the crisis.

In Mali, 4.6 million people are affected, including 1.6 million people in northern Mali where insecurity and violence means that access for humanitarian organisations is limited at a time when people are in desperate need of help. In addition, conflict has forced around 370,000 people to flee their homes in the north. Around 200,000 are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries – that are already struggling to deal with food shortages – and 170,000 are displaced within Mali.

Bocoum said: “The situation here is critical. Last year there was not enough rain, so this year’s harvest was terrible, there hasn’t been enough pasture for the animals and they are dying. People are just trying to get enough food to eat. As a result of the conflict in the north, thousands of people have left their homes, like me, and there is no-one to take care of them.

“Music makes miracles happen and brings people together, and I hope that by taking this opportunity to speak, people will listen and hear our message. This is a message of peace.”

A new song Bamako by Bocoum and Albarn was recorded at an acoustic performance in Afel’s home in Mali’s capital, and will be available to view today on You Tube.

Albarn said: “There’s a very precious deeply rooted musical tradition in this country and that’s part of the lifeblood of this place. I first came to Mali over 10 years ago and met some incredible musicians, and it is always a very special experience to come back and play with hugely respected and renowned artists such as Afel.”

Oxfam aims to reach 1.8 million people across West and Central Africa with emergency assistance. In Mali Oxfam works in the southern Kayes region and in the northern Gao region. Oxfam New Zealand is committed to raising $100,000 for the region.