Swinging Bamako, Rencontres d’Arles 2016
THE FABULOUS STORY OF LAS MARAVILLAS DE MALI
Swinging Bamako takes us back to a distant time when the Cold War simmered, world music came onstage, and newly independent Africa was a place where cultures and ideas mixed.
Each country in postcolonial Africa tried to find its own way. Utopian dreams converged with international solidarity. People who had fought against ‘colonial oppression’ and for the triumph of ‘world communism’ came to power in the new States. Those fascinating years may seem outdated and a bit kitsch to us, but they paved the way for our present. Globalisation as we know it today began in the early 1960s.
As Cuba frightened America and Africa discovered the ‘Soviet paradise’, the ‘Third World’—Mali and elsewhere—saw the rise of a new generation. Dreaming of emergence from the long colonial night, its members had a voracious appetite for music, celebration, and culture. Astonishing forms of syncretism led to the formation of a legendary group whose sounds still speak to us today: Las Maravillas de Mali. At a time when America sought to topple Castro, the band gave its country and the whole continent the first ‘Afro-Cuban’ hit: the legendary Rendez-vous Chez Fatimata. After getting Fidel and Che up to dance, their unique sound could be heard throughout Africa at dances and on bush-taxi radios. It was the upbeat tempo of an epoch, a continent and a culture.
The exhibition is about not only that story, but also the legendary group’s rediscovery by French music producer Richard Minier nearly 15 years ago, when he started looking for the last Maravillas. His search for images, sounds, musicians, and witnesses took him around the world from Abidjan to Bamako, Gao, Niamey, Paris, and Havana. The exhibition ushers visitors through a multisensory experience—sound, photography, and film—from the group’s creation at the same time that Mali became independent to Havana’s rhythmic streets and contemporary Bamako.
Welcome to this ‘back to the future’ between Bamako and Havana.
Pascal Blanchard and Thomas Mondo
We would like to thank André Magnin, Philippe Boutté, Jacques Denis and Samuel Sidibé.
Prints by Processus, Paris. Malick Sidibé prints come from the Galerie MAGNIN-A, Paris.
Framing by Plasticollage and Circad, Paris. Wallpaper by Processus, Paris.
Exhibition venue: Couvent-Saint-Césaire.