Malian songs have caught the ears of a variety of Western musicians in recent years, from Robert Plant to the outsider Sublime Frequencies label to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Canadian banjoist Jayme Stone, and American banjoist Bela Fleck. Fleck made a movie about his trip to Mali called Throw Down Your Heart. Tonight a similar film, this time about Irish musicians engaging with North Malian culture, Dambe: the Mali Project, will screen at Goethe-Institut as part of the Capital Irish Film Festival. In 2006, Irish musicians Liam o’Maonlaí (from the Hothouse Flowers) and Paddy Keenan went to Mali, where they traveled down the Niger River, went to Timbuktu, and headed up to the Sahara for the world’s most out-of-the-way music event, the Festival in the Desert. In Mali, they met and/or collaborated with both renowned Malian musicians (Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabaté, the now deceased Ali Farka Toure) and nomadic herders. The film trailer offers striking images of Malians in colorful traditional clothing, the seemingly endless arid desert, Irish musicians and Malians dancing, racing camels, and plenty of intimately shot musical jam sessions in which the Irish and Malian musicians performing together.
Dambe: The Mali Project (94 minutes), directed by Dearbhla Glynn, screens as part of the Capital Irish Film Festival Wednesday Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St. NW.