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Okayafrica TV: Tinariwen And The Fight For Freedom

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Note: The situation in Mali, to put it colloquially, is a mess. To be real: the depth and complexity of the conflict supersedes our ability to summarize it with the nuance it deserves. Below is our humble attempt, but for a clear and thoughtful explanation of the issues, check out Gregory Mann's piece in Foreign Policy.

A military coup last month, led by mid-level army officers, interrupted what would have been regularly scheduled, democratic presidential elections; the president at the time of the coup,  Amadou Toumani Touré, was stepping down on April 29, 2012, barely a month away.  The military junta, which now calls itself the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR),  was unhappy with the sitting president because of mismanaging the 2012 Tuareg Rebellion  - a continuation of a conflict dating back to 1916 between the Tuareg people and the Malian government - which led to demoralizing military defeats in the North of Mali.

Ironically however, the destabilization caused by the coup allowed for several rebel factions to take over parts of northern Mali, an area that has now been declared by the rebels as the sovereign state of Azawad (although this hasn't been recognized by the international community). Whether or not a Tuareg free-state in the north is good or bad, the fear is that the general unrest has helped radical Islamist groups, such as Ansar Dine, establish a foothold in Mali. The coup lasted only three weeks because economic sanctions on Mali by ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) forced the reigning military to secede power to an interim government. However, the coup damage has been done, and for the time being Mali has been split into two parts.

Following the coup d'etat in Mali, the well-known Tuareg band Tinariwen publicly voiced their support in favor of the uprising in the North. Tinariwen bassist Eyadou Ag Leche's comments to Belgian public broadcaster VRT supporting the drive for a Tuareg state in Northern Mali, a reflection what he told Okayafrica TV a few months back, just after  Muammar Gaddafi was killed in Libya. Leche expresses an "appreciation" for Gaddafi and all that he provided for the nomadic Tuaregs during periods of drought for example, but admits that Tuaregs didn't have full knowledge of Gaddafi's brutal dictatorship in Libya. Above, Ag Leche explains a side of the conflict not often represented in Western media.

Video shot by Jay Sprogell, French translation by Siddhartha Mitter.

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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