Mali first wins me over with its colors – even the earth is an unbelievable red. The roads remain largely unpaved, so, wherever you go, you kick up the dirt and travel in a red cloud. In this way, we arrive to the neighborhood of Sidi Touré, the man whose music and story–above all others in Mali–we sought out. He invites us into his home, painted in the same bright turquoise we find all across Mali, and we sip tea as we discuss the Take Away Show. We’ll have to film today because we are leaving Bamako tonight to begin a journey through the country. Sidi, as good as he is, has terrible luck – he tells us that his only guitar has just broken and it will take him a couple of days to find and borrow another. It’s all a bit uncertain, but in three weeks we’ll be back in Bamako to fly home, so we propose filming then. He smiles and agrees, but you can see that old sadness rise in his face – I’m not sure that he believes it will happen.
Three weeks pass and I can’t say which makes me happier: being with Sidi in his beautiful neighborhood again, or seeing him see us in his neighborhood again. In all honesty, I don’t think we felt certain that we’d be able to get back in time, but the strength of our first impressions of Sidi has pushed us, and somehow we are here again. I feel that, after all this traveling through his country, I can appreciate the Malian nature of this moment better than before. Like the story of Mali, Sidi’s is one of resilient beauty and quiet hope in the face of difficult circumstances. I see this in Sidi, and though I feel sad for he how has been robbed, I feel inspired by the apparent power of his song and story: from across the world, his music has found us and brought us here.
Sidi leads us through the streets and everyone we pass begins to hum or clap along with his songs as the children swarm around us. It’s easy to see that we are with a well-loved man. The brilliance of the moment really shines in Sidi’s face – he looks so completely happy singing and playing that you can’t stop smiling in his presence. He looks and sounds so beautiful that, above all, I feel relieved: relieved to see him this way, and relieved that we are capturing the experience to share with the world. Back home, it’s hard to place in words exactly what Mali was for me, but these videos of Sidi reflect what remains clearest in my mind of that place: color and song.