You have to marvel at a culture that prides itself on intolerance, denial and annihilation. No, this is not another rant on our gridlocked, be-uncooperative-at-any-cost US Senate, though they do a bang-up job on all of the above. It’s about the Taliban infiltrating a large country in Africa called Mali.
Islamic rebels entered Mali a year ago and singled out the north of the country to practice their never evolving tenets of negativity. They kicked off the party by banning music and dance, two of the most deeply ingrained disciplines in the country’s deep history. Music historians will argue that Mali may very well be the true birthplace of the Blues.
To show their well roundedness, the Taliban also banned ring tones, replacing them with versus from the Koran (aren’t those technically “sung”?) Then they got to work destroying the tombs of venerated Malian saints, claiming that such shrines are forbidden.
But where is it written that forbidden things have to be destroyed? That sort of defeats the purpose of labeling them forbidden, doesn’t it? And don’t you need forbidden things to exist so as to know and understand what’s not forbidden? And what we should be collectively aspiring to?
The Taliban’s central priorities are not the promotion of their own culture and beliefs, but the destruction and erasure of everyone else’s. Strangely, their form of Islam forsakes the two elements every other religion in the world holds sacred—forgiveness and tolerance.
I’m not quite up to date on Muhammad-mania, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t venerated because he hated others with such unflinching purity. And where in the Koran does it say that music and dance, the height of health in every culture, should be met by amputation and death? I mean of all the targets you can go after, you’re gonna fuck with the musicians? They’re having a hard enough go of it as it is. I mean, why not duck fat? You’d at least make an enemy of something that could cut your life short.
I’m not sure about you, but whenever I come across a movement whose biggest goals in life are to weaken and discredit culture, law and science– the pillars of the Enlightenment– I stop and wonder. And that’s the central problem with Islamic fundamentalists. They have absolutely no wonderment in their lives. No modesty before the sheer volume of brilliance human talent has produced.
If they did, they’d have a hell of a lot more fun in a city like Florence, Italy, for example, or even a day out in their own country of Afghanistan, taking in the Buddhas of Bamiyan or however many other cultural relics they’ve since defaced, literally. It’s such evolved thinking. Here’s something different, let’s destroy it!
If they let a little wonder in, I bet they’d be less inclined to say to each other on a fine, sunny day, “Hey, let’s find some talented local musicians and chop their hands off. That’ll show’em! Yeah, and after, we should look for sacred texts to set aflame, ‘cause then people will forget all that history and convert to Islam! “
For the sake of the mental exercise, let’s imagine a world where the Taliban had its way. What would be left, exactly? What would we do all day besides read the Koran and suck on rocks and fuck sheep? Oh, wait, wait a second. We could stop everyone else on the planet from attempting to express any kind of creativity. That would keep us pretty busy.
Suppressing women is full time job in itself. They keep popping up, wanting to read and drive and not be raped to death. You’d think that somewhere along the line, one of these toothless motherfuckers would say, “Wow, this suppression thing never seems to stick. Every time we’re expelled, everything goes back to the way it was. It’s like listening to a broken record.”
But that would require knowledge of music, which they don’t have, because songs are evil.
So let’s all take a moment to appreciate just how deeply integrated music is in our culture. Who isn’t bopping around to some kind of personal soundtrack these days? Who isn’t exposing their kids to as many different types of music possible?
The Super Bowl, the pinnacle of commercialized male aggression, had a thirty-minute tribute to the female form, in dance and song and sparking guitars, that was nearly as impressive as the game itself, especially sans the power outage. And it wasn’t just pop. The music actually spoke some cultural truths, too, because if you do really want it, than you really better put a ring on it.
In banning music, Jihadists not only stop the joy a listener receives, they also stop the collaboration that happens between artists, and for a place like Timbuktu or Bamako, that can be devastating. The art scene there is as diverse as any big city in the world, including New York. Can you imagine Manhattan with a music ban?
My friends, Toubab Krewe— an amazing afro-rock band that has lit up festivals like Bonnaroo– have studied music in Mali and performed there several times. I do my damndest to not imagine them with stubs at the ends of their arms instead of hands, because that would launch me into a personal journey that would end in the very darkest manner imaginable.
Here’s a band made up of culturally aware, college educated Americans, who have dedicated their talents to keeping an ancient tradition of another countries music alive, the musical tradition of Mali. And they stand in a long line of highly accomplished artists who choose to collaborate with these musicians– everyone from Ry Cooder to the Rolling Stones.
Forget about going to war over oil. We can get attack Canada for that, if we really need to. In Mali, the music alone is worth taking on the Taliban for. I’m all for another Shock and Awe. Let’s gather us up some Islamic Rebels, tie them to benches with women’s panties, and blast Ali Farke Toure’s Grammy winning blues record into their ears until they go deaf.
They won’t have to suffer another note of music after that… And we’ll all be happy.