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Mali Now: Exploring Music, Culture, and Politics

Meryl Cates
September 23, 2014

Bassekou Kouyate. Photograph courtesy of World Music Institute
Bassekou Kouyate. Photograph courtesy of World Music Institute

«This season, Met Museum Presents offers a rare and comprehensive look at postmillennial Mali and contemporary Malian music, culture, and politics. Mali Now features performances and talks that either introduce New York audiences to Malian artists, scholars, and thought provokers, or gives already-devoted fans an opportunity to experience these figures live on stage through a roster of thrilling events.»

A continuation of the programming trajectory that began with the reopening of the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia in 2011 and the surge of interest that it created from visitors and audiences, Mali Now began last week with the first talk—one which explored the priceless Timbuktu manuscripts—in a three-part series, Contemporary Mali with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and an incredible concert by vocalist and Malian music icon Salif Keita, who performed a rare acoustic set. The program is set to return to the Met in October with even more fascinating talks, as well as a concert by Bassekou Kouyate and his band, Ngoni Ba.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., producer of the popular PBS series Wonders of the African World, will be joined by notable guests and important figures in the cultural rebirth of Mali. Writer and filmmaker Manthia Diawara and executive director of the world-renowned Festival Au Désert of Timbuktu, Mohamed Ali Ansar, look at Music, Culture, and Conflict in Mali on October 9, alongside Dr. Gates. And a highlight of the talk series will take place on October 23, when Malian Minister of Culture N'Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo joins Dr. Gates and professor Ousseina Alidou for a discussion, Defining Mali through Women's Voices.

For a powerful conclusion to Mali Now, virtuoso instrumentalist Bassekou Kouyate will display his prowess on the ngoni (an ancient, traditional "spike lute" and a precursor to the banjo) in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium on October 30. A renowned picker, Kouyate brings an acoustic performance that reveals a softer, unexpected layer to African music.

Mali Now is an opportunity to experience Mali through fascinating and unexpected performance and cultural experiences, right here, within the walls of the Met.

To purchase tickets to any of the Mali Now events, visit or call 212-570-3949. Tickets are also available at the Great Hall Box Office, open Monday–Saturday, 11:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

Meryl Cates

Meryl Cates is a senior publicist in the Communications Department.