Music: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Tinariwen, and Yanni


By Elizabeth Doyle

Whirling dervishes, traditional Sufi dancers

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan — Some people say that this man, with his six-octave vocal range was the best singer of all time.  Of all time!  I’m not quite ready to go that far, but he is incredible. He was a Pakistani who sang primarily Sufi songs.  Apparently, his family had a 600-year tradition of singing these songs, and Nusrat brought them all to new levels of fame, even recording soundtracks for major motion pictures. Tragically, he only lived to age 48. It was his liver or his heart or something; I’m not quite sure. But he certainly made an impact!  Click here.




Rock formations from Tambori, Mali

Tinariwen – If you liked the Sahara desert music from last week, here’s another band from the region. The Tuareg leader of the band comes from a refugee camp (Homelands of nomadic tribes of the Sahara have frequently been annexed by surrounding Saharan countries, which has resulted in refugee camps.) The band has a large cast of changing members, and they’ve really built their reputation through word of mouth around northern Africa. Many of the young men in the band have been soldiers, and they’ve used music to give a voice to the people of the desert. They’ve gained real international recognition for their exceptional work, they’re becoming surprisingly influential, musically speaking, and they’re definitely worth knowing about. Click here



Yanni – OK, a lot of people make fun of Yanni. I think it’s the hair. Maybe the moustache. But Yanni is really talented. And Greece has every right to be as proud of him as it is! Back in Greece, Yanni taught himself how to play every instrument he knows, beginning at age six. He began writing his own music as a child. And he had no musical education of any kind. When he began making albums, he didn’t make anything that he had any reason to think would sell well. Instead, he made what he wanted to make. For a while, PBS (Public Broadcasting) was one of the only places you could see or hear his music. But he was so good, that he became famous anyway. He’s put a lot of the world’s music in the spotlight during his concerts, he’s known to be a genuine philanthropist who cares deeply about the plight of nature. In this video, he takes a moment to put the spotlight on a gentleman who can play a 3,000 year old Armenian instrument. Click here.


Top photo: diaz /Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. / Whirling dervishes or Darveshes, Rumi Fest 2007.

Second photo:  Timm Guenther (Timm Busshaus) / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Rock formation near Hombori, Mali

Third photo: Public domain press photo / Yanni


Music from Mali, from near the Khyber Pass, and from the American West

By Elizabeth Doyle

Oumou Sangare, performing at a concert in Portugal, 2007

Oumou Sangare – There’s a region in Mali called Wassoulou which has a really famous musical tradition. Its music stems from traditional hunting songs, and is usually sung by women, often focusing today on issues specifically facing women. One of its most famous singers currently is Oumou Sangare. She comes from a long line of musicians. And she’s not only a terrific Wassoulou performer with loads of personality, but true to her musical genre, she’s a huge advocate for women’s rights. She’s extremely vocal against child marriages and against polygamy. And she herself is a savvy business owner (hotel and automobile business) who tries to set an example to other ladies that financial independence is a form of freedom. A great singer and an impressively stubborn soul! Here she is:

Near the Khyber Pass

Aiman Udas – This is a lovely Pakistani singer, who was, very tragically killed by her family a couple of years ago. Allegedly, it was done by her brothers, as an “honor killing” because they thought she was a disgrace (both for being a woman who sang in public and for being divorced). They left both of her children orphaned, without a mom. Not much honor in that! So I say we spread videos of her singing in public all over the world. She gave her life to her art, and she deserves to be heard.  Click here.


Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Connie Dover – She has one of my favorite voices. Truly an American treasure, this Arkansas-born lady composes and performs music that draws out the richness of American soil. She sings from a place of spirit and a sense of the heavens, while grounding every note in the earth. Some of her songs echo slightly of Scotland’s or Ireland’s reverberations on the United States, while others hint at ancient whispers of Christianity that have crossed the ocean, and some are even ticklish with thoughts of love, but many of her songs simply seek the grasp the sheer expansiveness of the American experience, and particularly, the massive American West. Here she is, singing at a Cowboy Poetry expedition.  Click here.


Top photo: Bunks  / Oumou Sangaré in Sines Portugal 2007 / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Second photo: James Mollison /  Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. / Taken at the Khyber Pass, near Peshawar, Pakistan, where Aiman Udas lived

Third photo:  Sharon St Joan / Canyon de Chelly / Arizona


“Hidden Sky,” Mali, and the Chukchi people

By Elizabeth Doyle

Elephants of Samburu, Kenya

Jami Sieber – I just bought this album.  It’s called “Hidden Sky” and it’s inspired by elephants. Yes, elephants!  Apparently, according to the album notes, a visit with the elephants in Thailand just about changed this musician’s life. Changed how she sees herself, and all those around her.  And changed how she plays music.  This is definitely the most haunting music she’s ever made. If I didn’t know it was about elephants, I would never have guessed.  But now that I know, I think I can feel their ancient gentleness in every note.  A portion of the proceeds of the album go to help elephants, so I can feel good about that.  And there is something absolutely mystical about what those giants have done to this music …..  I do believe that their presence is behind it. Click here.

A Dogon granery, Mali

Salif Keita – This guy’s really interesting. He’s literally descended from kings in Mali.  But he was born albino (lack of pigment in the skin), and for that reason, was cast out by his family.  If it hadn’t been for that, being in the caste he was in, he might never have become a singer, but as it was …. he went on to become a musical star! One theme in his music, naturally enough, is trying to teach that “different” does not mean “bad.” (Apparently, albinos can face some terrible persecutions in some parts of Africa – including human sacrifice.)  In addition, in interviews he’s spoken about some religious pressure from some mosques back in Mali that don’t like music.  But he seems to have no trouble uniting his love of his spiritual faith with his love of sound, and seems to be doing a lot of good in the process:  Click here.



Ergyron— I’ve always admired people who used to live in the Arctic … before we had indoor switches that turn on the heat.  I can’t imagine falling asleep in subzero temperatures every night and awakening every morning to …. More subzero temperatures.  I feel like I’d have a permanent case of the flu.  But of course, snow is

A Chukchi woman

also magical, mystical and romantic… when you don’t feel its bite.  And I think you can see both sides of Arctic life in traditional Arctic song and dance.  I feel like you can see the harshness of life – and also the wonder of snow glistening pink in the morning sunrise.  Ergyron comes from the Arctic of Russia (the Chukchi people). The group calls themselves Chukchi-Eskimo: Click here.







Top photo:  Sharon St Joan / elephants in Kenya

Second photo: Michelealfieri / / A granery in a Dogon village, Mali

Third photo: Konstantin Shevtsov / / a Chukchi woman