The Music of Mali Captured in “Life is Hard, Music is Good”

Good folk music is able to convey centuries of history, tracing the path of a culture from its roots to its modern form. Whether it’s by sticking to the past with time-honored song structures or embracing the present by mixing unique regional instruments with new technology, folk is able to show the essence of a people in an unparalleled manner. This week’s featured Kickstarter project, Music in Mali: Life is Hard, Music is Good, embraces this tradition of musicial storytelling.

Mali, one of Africa’s poorest countries, enjoys a rich musical tradition that combines (usually parable-style) folk storytelling with instantly recognizable West African instruments. Blending continental sounds and writing methods with genres (like blues, hip-hop and jazz) that went on to further develop through the nation’s relationship with American slaves, Mali’s music is some of the most captivating in the world. Despite continued national hardship (in the form of political, economic and social troubles) Mali’s citizens still actively carry on crafting and performing songs that celebrate their history. Music in Mali, a full-length documentary film, seeks to tell the story of these artists.

The project is spearheaded by Kanaga System Krush (or KSK), an indie label that focuses primarily on releasing music from West African artists. KSK has been documenting its work with these musicians, filming scenes of the country while the singers, dancers and instrumentalists themselves share their stories of life in Mali and the inspiration behind their craft. Shots of the country’s landscape mix with interviews and, of course, live performances to make Music in Mali a true portrait of a nation and its population.

Listeners already hip to KSK’s releases will recognize some of the artists that appear in the film (like Toumani Diabate, Djeneba Seck, Djeli Mady Tounkara and more) while many others will notice familiar faces from the rest of the world (such as Blur and Gorillaz’ Damon Albarn, Ry Cooder or Bonnie Raitt).

Music in Mali is an exciting project that aims to provide international viewers with a look into Africa that goes beyond the violence and disease that so often characterizes the continent. The filmmakers have taken a look into the spirit of a culture that, despite overwhelming problems, continues to create beautiful music. As the nation continues to change, KSK wants to preserve elements of Mali that could very well disappear in the near future. Donating to the production of the film works to not only fund a unique and entertaining project but also to shed light on aspects of Africa that transcend the gloom of war and stifling living conditions and, instead, promote the fundamental good made possible through human creativity, joy and perserverence.

Want to donate? Then do it by visiting the Music in Mali Kickstarter page. Need more convincing? Check out a hi-def video trailer for the project by clicking here or visit KSK Records’ official page for information and audio samples from some of the West African groups represented by the record label.

Music in Mali: Life is Hard, Music is Good will be funded on Saturday, July 23rd at 2.00am EST if the $20,000 goal is met on time.