The first act to be officially announced for this summer’s Glastonbury is the Malian singer Rokia Traoré and organisers Emily and Michael Eavis have said that bands from the embattled country will open the Pyramid stage each day. In an intended act of solidarity with musicians in Mali, which is in the middle of a ferocious civil war, other parts of the festival site, including a revamped dance area, will also feature a heavy west African presence. “We have a long tradition dating back to the 80s of African acts playing the festival,” the festival’s co-organiser Emily Eavis told the Guardian, adding “Given the situation in Mali at the moment, it felt particularly important to show some solidarity” and “We want to stay out of the politics, but if we can give musicians a platform we will always do that”. The war in Mali began as a fight for greater autonomy for northern Mali, an area known as Azawad. The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), an organization fighting to make Azawad an independent homeland for the nomadic Tuareg people, had taken control of the region by April 2012. The MNLA were initially backed by the Islamist group Ansar Dine. After the Malian military were driven from Azawad, Ansar Dine began imposing strict Sharia Law – including banning music. The MNLA and Islamists struggled to reconcile their conflicting visions for an intended new state and the MNLA began fighting against Ansar Dine and other Islamist groups, including the Movement for Oneness and Johad in West Africa, a splinter group of Al-Qaeda. The Islamic forces now control most of Northern Mali, but recently French and forces from other West African Countries have now intervened.
Other Malian acts to have already played the Glastonbury Festival include Amadou and Mariam, Tinariwen, Toumani Diabaté, Salif Keita and the late Ali Farka Touré.