It was on the edge of the desert, the last settlement before the journey truly would begin. A sign in Hamid El Ghizlane read: Tombouctou 50 days. That’s history now: the camel routes have been replaced by aeroplanes and FourWheelDrives.

It was early 2015 in Hamid El Ghizlane and bitterly cold. With all my clothes on and buried under three thick blankets, still the bones would wake up freezing. Indeed: like six years previously, at a very similar festival near that other city, 50 days away, I had come woefully ill-prepared. Again.

But there was music. It sent lines across the vast open space between this Moroccan village and that city on the other side. Guitar lines. Bass lines. Vocal lines. Threads of melody, interspersed with hand claps, drums and percussion. We liked it so much that in the cold and pitch-dark night we threw off our jackets and danced.

And danced.


There were guests. From Europe, from the neighbours, and from Tombouctou, no longer 50 days away. Three years ago, Tombouctou was battered by the twin force of an extended family feud and an empty-headed reading of the religion that has also thrown its lines across the sand. Islam. But instead of feasting their ears on the worshipping chants and marvel at the sight of the sacred tombs, vandals tore through the old culture of the city. It survived. The Festival of the Desert, which is now twinned with the one at Hamid El Ghizlane (or Taragalt, to give it its old name), is still looking for a home.

But still we listened, and we danced.


I recorded a lot of it. A conversation with Ibrahim, one of the festival directors, spontaneous music outbursts, an interview with some lovely lads from the village, wanting to make it big. Génération Taragalte, they called themselves. They knew their music. They knew their heroes: Tinariwen, from another place in that large space of sand, rock and guitar strings, spinning musical lines thousands of miles long.

50 days. A split-second when a single chord transports you back to the other side of the desert where the Festival of the Desert spun its yarns of peace and understanding and love until some misguided fools shot holes in the fabric.

A group of women were busy putting it all back together in Hamid El Ghizlane/Taragalte. Zeinab and her friends were weaving a Carpet of Peace, made with fabrics brought in from Mali. They asked visitors to come with clothes they no longer wanted, so they could weave that also back into the Carpet before sending it across the Sahara. More lines. I recorded a lot, there, too.


I lost some of it when my harddisk crashed, months later. Fortunately, we humans have another harddisk, equally faulty but capable of making connections, freely, randomly, dreaming up lines unexpectedly – mostly to ourselves.

And so we have come to the other end of 2015. It’s warm where I am right now. A mere 300 miles from here, 7 hours by bus, is my house. Burkina Faso, a new place, a new home, which I share with someone who is well on her way to becoming a star in her own right. But that’s another story.

Here’s to 2016 then. When more lines will be drawn, more connections made, more music will emerge, more perspectives will be challenged and more surprises will strike for which we, only human, are singularly ill-prepared.

Small matter. It’ll all make sense later.

Office. Ouaga.

Office. Home. Ouaga.

Happy 2016 to you all.

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6 Responses to “Lines”

  1. Aida Grovestins Says:

    Een mooi 2016 Bram! Met veel mooie nieuwe avonturen. Hoop je een keer in Ouaga op te komen zoeken.

    nog iets van Le Balai Citoyen gemerkt tijdens de verkiezingen?

    Tot in het nieuwe jaar! A

    Aida Grovestins multimedia journalist – Dakar, West-Africa | @AidaGrovs Sen. +221772030650 | NL +31619424606

    • bramposthumus Says:

      Dank! En een mooi 2016 ook voor jou. Tot snel! Zeker, Balai citoyen was druk met voter education. En met de nieuwe president zal de druk erop blijven staan. Had een lang en goed inerview met Smockey trouwens, kort geleden. Maar nu: nog twee dagen vakantie!

  2. Job de Graaf Says:

    De beste wensen voor 2016 en laten we hopen dat de vernietiging van al het culturele, natuur-lijke en mens-waardige erfgoed een halt wordt toegeroepen. Zonder geweld ….

  3. erik wormhoudt Says:

    Dag Bram, bedankt voor deze mooie woorden.
    2016 wordt een jaar waarin vele lijntjes samen gaan komen, dat hoop ik en dat gaat ook gebeuren. Until we meet again … maak er een ´smittening´ 2016 van en de groeten aan “la grande dame”. Live well! 😉

  4. Kees van Eijk Says:

    Hoi Bram. loosing your hair? Nou een snel 2016 en veel music plezier. Ik ga in maart met pensioen. Wordt het misschien toch Africa want ik heb weer contact met Hillcrest Manicaland.
    Groet, Kees.


    Von Mutatis Mudandis….Greeting from the bottom of the earth…Keeping well I hope. Always interesting….Travel Well my friend and see you if you ever wish to to visit the desert down under…contact me

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