Since 2009 an interesting phenomenon has been happening around the Saharan desert, discarded cellphones have been collected and the music stored on them has been shared via bluetooth and mp3 trades. “Since then, many speculated that internet would wash over the desert rendering the peer to peer transfers of cellphone exchanges inútil. Instead, a more sinister force of religious of extremists have spelled an end to cellphone music – banning any non-Koranic mp3s on cellphones. Northerners are holding their breath waiting for the sandstorm to pass.”
On the sahel blog many other interesting vignettes are posted. e.g. “The urban Tamashek youth with their multicolored turbans and sharp clothing are from the desert, but not a few have spend their time in the capitals — the more affluent shooting off to Bamako or Tamanrasset for a brief respite from the desert. And while there is always a brief visit to the desert, the nomad existence couldn’t be further from the life of the town.
“In one of our songs, we tell people to come back. To return to the desert,” he explains. “We say, ‘You’ve quit your life in the desert, and come to the city because you think life is easier. But one day you’re going to regret what you’ve left behind.’”
“You want people to return to the nomadic life?” I ask.
“No,” he says, confused. “The desert — to return to Kidal.”
A friend nearby laughs. “He means Kidal. Look around, this is the desert.”
“The nomads are the real Tamashek.” he says. “We’re…bootleg Tamashek.” They laugh.
Now Music from Saharan Cellphones vol 2. has been released.