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songhoybluesatmorgan-12 - Aliou Toure, lead singer of Songhoy Blues: “Mogoya has disappeared and the love of power has eclipsed the power of love” © Andy Morgan

Mogoya (episode 2)

Read epi­sode 1.

Rap­per Ami Yere­wo­lo, a para­digm of outs­po­ken­ness, agrees : “Like eve­ry­thing in a socie­ty, mogoya has its strengths and its weak­nesses. Its strength is that when you have a pro­blem, the whole fami­ly is with you. We sleep toge­ther, eat toge­ther, talk toge­ther. But it also has its hypo­cri­ti­cal side. People are vul­ne­rable, there are no jobs, nothing to do, so the only occu­pa­tion they can find to dis­tract them­selves is to hurt each other, to hate each other, to find some­thing with which to des­troy the other.”

Ami Yere­wo­lo – Lyam­ba


Behind the decade of tur­moil that Malians have suf­fe­red and the coup d’état that ous­ted Karim Keita’s father, Pre­sident Ibra­him Bou­ba­car Kei­ta on August 18th, is a deep sense that some­thing essen­tial to the Malian cha­rac­ter is being des­troyed by greed, cor­rup­tion and the dazzle of money. “If there are all these pro­blems today,” says Aliou Toure, lead sin­ger of Son­ghoy Blues, “it’s because mogoya has disap­pea­red and the love of power has eclip­sed the power of love. There was a time when we were real­ly hap­py here in Mali with the lit­tle we had, because we were at peace, we were safe and life was beau­ti­ful. People are begin­ning to rea­lize their mistake.”


Son­ghoy Blues – Wor­ry


Bou­ra­ma Sou­ma­no, here­di­ta­ry chief of the griots of Bama­ko, blames this fall from grace on the fact that no one lis­tens to the griots any­more. “The griot’s role in the trans­mis­sion of mogoya from one gene­ra­tion to ano­ther is indis­pen­sable,” he says. “Malian socie­ty has unders­tood that it was wrong to want to dele­gate that role to modern com­mu­ni­ca­tors such as jour­na­lists, TV pre­sen­ters, people on the inter­net. The griots haven’t taught the new gene­ra­tion what it should have taught them.”

Ano­ther griot, famous on the inter­na­tio­nal music scene, even went so far as to blame reli­gion, by which he meant Islam, for the slow death of mogoya. “Sila­meya (Islam-ness), that’s what’s des­troying eve­ry­thing,” he says.Reli­gion arri­ved here only to find that we alrea­dy had mogoya. It was even more ups­tan­ding than their reli­gion. Now they’ve built lots of mosques, but there’s no more mogoya. We were hap­py before reli­gion. We were doing fine.”

The demise of mogoya, a ‘human-cen­tred’ phi­lo­so­phy, has been at the heart of Mali’s inter­nal moral debate for decades. Now that debate is increa­sin­gly cou­ched in Isla­mic, ‘God-cen­te­red’ terms. The immense popu­la­ri­ty of cha­ris­ma­tic imams such as Mah­moud Dicko, de-fac­to lea­der of the oppo­si­tion M5 move­ment, sug­gests that Malians are see­king a sanc­ti­fied and righ­teous anti­dote to the moral ban­krupt­cy of the cur­rent poli­ti­cal class. But what form should righ­teous­ness take ?  Stron­ger reli­gious devo­tion ? Or more mogoya ? Or both ?

Per­haps, in an age of capi­ta­lism and consu­me­rism, mogoya is an impos­sible dream. Per­haps it only ever exis­ted when eve­ryone – kings, nobles, war­riors, mer­chants, griots, crafts­men, slaves – knew their place, and when women stayed at home to edu­cate their chil­dren 24/7 (as was asser­ted by a griot during one of my inter­views). Per­haps, as Ivo­rian wri­ter Ama­dou Koné sug­gests, it’s time for a new mogoya, one embo­died in a few enligh­te­ned indi­vi­duals like N’Douba, hero of Koné’s novel Les Res­pects des Morts (1992) who declares : ‘The black man of tomor­row is made not by he who adheres des­pe­ra­te­ly to the past, nor by he that Europe has lead astray by dazz­ling him, but sim­ply by the one who is suf­fi­cient­ly lucid to advance towards Europe whil­st remai­ning himself.’

Oumou San­gare thinks that Afri­ca can save its mogoya by emu­la­ting Japan. “Japan is the most modern coun­try in the world, agreed ? Japan is also the most tra­di­tio­nal coun­try in the world, agreed ? Afri­ca can evolve, whil­st pre­ser­ving cer­tain tra­di­tions that are worth pre­ser­ving. I real­ly want Afri­ca to become like that. And it’s doable.”



Andy Morgan


Andy Morgan is a writer and photographer based in Bristol, UK. He worked for 30 years in music ending up as manager of Tinariwen. In 2010 he turned to writing and photography full time, contributing articles to The Guardian, The Independent, Songlines and many other publications. He has also appeared on the BBC, Al Jazeera and CBC. His first book, Music, Culture and Conflict in Mali (Freemuse Publications), was published in May 2013.  Andy’s photography has appeared in Songlines, Condé Nast Traveller and other publications, and on the front cover of CDs by Songhoy Blues, Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita and Gwyneth Glyn. In 2017 Andy curated an exhibition of global music photography at The Royal Albert Hall in London, to which he contributed a number of images.

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