Malian musicians sing for peace in crisis-hit country

LONDON (REUTERS) - Dozens of Malian musicians, including world-renowned performers Amadou and Mariam, Vieux Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate, have recorded a song for peace in response to the deepening conflict in their country.

The musicians came together in the capital Bamako this week to record the track "Mali-ko (Peace/La Paix)".

"The Malian people look to us," singer Fatoumata Diawara, the organiser of the project, said in a statement. "They have lost hope in politics. But music has always brought hope in Mali."

Mali has a rich musical tradition and many artists are well-known on the international circuit. Amadou and Mariam have sold millions of discs worldwide.

However, when Islamists took over the north of the country last year, they banned music other than Koranic verses, persecuted musicians and smashed instruments and players.

The conflict has intensified with the intervention of French and African forces to push back the Islamist rebels.

"Music has always been strong and spiritual, and has had a very important role in the country, so when it comes to the current situation, people are looking to musicians for a sense of direction," Fatoumata said.

The Voices United for Mali group also includes Oumou Sangare, Bassekou Kouyate and Djelimadi Tounkara among others.

The French lyrics refer directly to the situation in the north, saying: "Such catastrophe, such desolation. They want to impose sharia law on us. Tell the North that our Mali is one nation, indivisible!"

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