GWMF2017: Uprising – Interview with Lutz Gregor

Gibraltar World Music Festival 2017 – Uprising


GWMF 2017: Uprising – Interview with Lutz Gregor

Please give us a brief description of your Documentary is about.

It is about the Music in Mali and about the fight of the Malian musicians against the Islamic fundamentalism. We were doing like a kind of road-movie in Mali, meeting different musicians from different areas, from traditional Griot singers such as Bassekou Kouyate and kind of shooting stars for the global scene such as Fatoumata Diawara or Blues musicians like Ahmed Ag Kaedi. We were following them, knowing what they were doing in their lives as well as how they tried to defend their right of playing music in Mali.

What initiated your interest in covering this?

The background is that I did several films in Mali. They year before I was in Timbuctu to make a documentary about the historical manuscripts which were threatened by the Islamists when they occupied the North. In this period I met a lot of people, musicians as well, and you could feel political tensions when the North was occupied in January 2012. I met Fatoumata Diawara when she did a concert in Hamburg and we decided to do something. At that moment she did already Music for Peace with 40 musicians from Mali, which was very powerful and had a lot of influence from the political situation in Mali. We decided to do something bigger to spread this message to the World of how they are fighting for their right to play music in Mali.

What was your biggest challenge in making the film?

To work in Africa is not very easy, especially when you are German. You cannot plan as much as you like. The most challenging for us was to adapt to the situation but we never had real problems. We couldn’t go to the North as we wanted. We had a script but we were there we had to change a lot of things. In the script we had that we were going to try to do a concert in Timbuctu but for security reason we had to cancel it. But we were in Bamako and around shooting without any real problem.

Did you encounter any difficulties while shooting in public? What was the over all reaction from the locals with regards to the story line?

No, never.

How did you decide to select the soundtrack for the movie? What attracted you to this particular soundtrack?

The first artist I met from Mali was Fatoumata Diawara. I knew her job before and I liked it a lot even if I didn’t understand what she sung because she was singing in her native language, which is the Bambara. Of course I also knew Salif Keïta, Ali Farka Touré, Oumou Sangare… all these powerful musicians from Mali. ‘Fatou’ had a friend, Mory Touré, which is a radio journalist and he knows everybody in Mali and he could open the door to all the musicians. At the end we went together for researching, we met different musicians and sometimes it was very difficult because they were touring we decided to go for the four musicians that appear in the film: about Fatoumata Diawara I already spoke about her; Bassekou Kouyaté he is a famous Ngoni player and a kind of inventor of a new kind of traditional music and he comes from the Griot tradition, which is quite important in Mali. Music is part of everyday life. When there is a problem in the family, when there is a conflict in the society they try to solve it mediating between the two parts in conflict. They are praising the king and all the important people of the society. That’s why Bassekou has sometimes to stop playing and he needs to go to TV to come down the minds especially during the time of war in the North. He was very important for us because he is renewing the traditional way of play music and he is an international star. I spent a lot of time with Ahmed Ag Kaedi and his band Amanar who are playing like Tinariwen, the Desert blues and especially because of their history. His hometown is Kidal, at the North of Mali, which was threatened directly by the islamists, so he had to leave his family there and go to Bamako. He is suffering a lot because he is alone in Bamako without his family because it’s impossible for the musicians to survive in the North. And another one was Master Soumy who is a big star in Mali, he can get 15,000 people in a stadium and send messages. He is very popular among young people. He is a very powerful voice for the young people. At this moment there are a lot of rapers in Africa, in Senegal, and they have a very political impact.

Do you think that your documentary can be used as a tool to help spread this music & highlight Malian problems around the world?

It’s very difficult to measure how much influence you can have in the society, how much influence the music can have to change something. I think, especially in Mali where you listen the lyrics of their music they are always connected to their society and their problems. ‘Fatou’ sings about women rights, about forced marriages and people is listening to her. Music is distributed in Mali not via CDs, they don’t have CD players, It’s distributed via cell phone. When there is a new song immediately it’s spread all over and listen the content. There is one clip in ‘Mali Blues’ called ‘Le desire pour le desert’ and they sing how much they would love to back to the North, to the desert, to play in the Festival in the Desert, which is still not possible to happen. It’s about reconciliation, it says ‘OK, let’s forgive. Let’s find solutions to our problems’. These are important messages transported by the music.

What do you want people to think when they leave the cinema in Gibraltar?

Well, it’s up to them. It’s always different. One thing of course that we intend is to produce a kind of feeling of respect for this people. What we try to do is to create some positive images of Africa and African people. At this moment in media when they talk about Africa is always the same kind of stories about corruption and horrible stories but you never get images about positive stories, about African heroes, about African people who is trying to change things. When you watch this people, like Ahmed or Fatoumata, you start to love them. This is the idea that we want to give with this film.

You have been chosen to illustrate via your documentary the BrightMed concept. In Gibraltar where communities live together in peace, like you, BrightMed aims to promote this great value added message that the world needs.

What I would say is let’s do music together, let’s cook together, let’s dance together and if we do this together we can live together.

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