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For 12 years beginning in 2001, the Festival au Désert brought Saharan nomadic combos, small-town performers, and special guests like Robert Plant to Mali for a musical celebration. But after Islamic fundamentalists took over the northern part of the country in January 2012, the area was deemed unsafe and the 2013 festival was canceled. (Fortunately, intervention from France and other nations has helped quell the conflict, and organizers hope the festival may return as soon as next year.) In the meantime, the Caravan for Peace concerts bring three popular desert acts to North America: Tartit’s performances combine eerie chanted lyrics with sparse, strummed rhythms; like his late collaborator Ali Farka Toure, Mamadou Kelly’s majestic guitar fingerpicking evokes the blues, though the emotion originates outside the U.S; and the Tuareg group Imharhan, led by electric guitarist Mohamed Issa, grabs listeners with heartfelt lyrics about love and life in exile.
The Festival in the Desert Caravan for Peace begins at 8 p.m. at Tropicalia, 2001 14th St. NW. $10. (202) 639-4535. tropicaliadc.com.
Photo by Andrea Papitto.