Timbuktu, with Love

Mali

Fatoumata Diawara (Mali) is a power of a voice, in music, for the rights of women and girls, for justice, for dignity.

In an enormous, round, cavernous hall in London, I felt her voice touch me, before I heard it. It made the distance between us disappear. I had to catch my breath.

Nowhere is that power more palpable than in this mournful tribute to Timbuktu, a place of legend, history, culture and beauty carved out of the desert in Mali, dating back to the 12th century. It’s a place I always wanted to visit; it is now beyond reach, held by militant groups.

A small note: the images in this video are explicit and may be disturbing. They also reflect a reality that is part of seeing the world in a different light.

I love the sound of language, especially in song. Here are the lyrics in Bambara and in English.

Timbuktu Fasso

Ko o ye ne faso ye
n balimalu Tonbuktu ye ne faso ye
mmm ko o ye ne faso ye
sinjilu , Tonbuktu ye ne faso ye
ko denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi la Ala
badenya, badenya dugu ye Tonbuktu ye
sinjiya, sinjiya dugu ye Maliba ye
yankalu yan ye ne faso ye
oo bo oo boo ooo

Ko o ye ne faso ye
n balimalu Maliba ye ne faso ye
aw bɛ kasi la mun na
denmisɛnnu bɛ ka si la mun na
aw bɛ kasi la mun na
kamalennu bɛ kasi la
Maliba — don dɔ be se —

Ko yan ye ne faso ye
n sinjilu Tonbuktu ye ne faso ye
ko siniɲɛsigi jɔrɔ de bɛ an na
n ko denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi la yen
denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi la yen mun na
aw ye hami na mun na yen
aw kana kasi la Ala
Maliba don dɔ – bɛ se –

Aw bɛ – aw bɛ kasi la yen mun na yen
N ko anw bɛ kasi la eee mun na n ba eee Ala
n ko denmisɛnnu bɛ kasi la yen Ala
Maliba n ko don dɔ bɛ se.

Tumbuktu Fasso

TIMBUKTU, MY HOMELAND

This is my homeland,
my friends, Timbuktu is my homeland
this is my homeland,
my brothers and sisters, Timbuktu is my homeland
the children are crying, Allah,
my brothers and sisters, Timbuktu is our homeland
my brothers and sisters, great Mali is my homeland
people from here, my homeland is here
oo bo oo boo oo

This is my homeland,
my brothers and sisters, great Mali is my homeland
you are crying, why?
The children are crying, why?
You are crying, why?
The young people are crying, why?
Great Mali is bound to win

My homeland is here,
my brothers and sisters, Timbuktu is my homeland
we are afraid of the future,
the children down there are crying, why?
You are so much worried, why?
Don’t cry, Allah,
great Mali is bound to win

You are crying, you are crying down there, why?
You are crying down there, why, Allah?
The children down there are crying, why, Allah?
Great Mali, I tell you, is bound to win.

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