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Monday, 27 January, 2003, 16:10 GMT
Desert blues inspire singer Plant
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page
Plant has played to huge stadiums around the globe
Robert Plant, the former lead singer of rock group Led Zeppelin, has gone in search of his blues roots at a music festival held in the Sahara desert in Mali.

Plant, whose large repertoire includes 1970 hit Whole Lotta Love, is playing at the Festival of the Desert, set in the middle of the sand dunes about 70km north of Timbuktu.

It draws together wide-reaching communities and in particular shines the spotlight on nomadic desert group the Tuareg people.

The singer has been working with Malian guitar maestro Ali Farka Toure, and said: "I was attracted by the Tuareg lifestyle. The music reminded me of why I sang in the first place - it is not commercialised."

A Tuareg girl walks in the mid-day heat, in the remote oasis of Bou Djebeha, in the Sahara Desert
Tuareg music: Can provide a sense of past and present
He told BBC World Service's Arts In Action programme: "I am lucky to be surrounded by some amazing musicians."

The festival bills itself as "the most remote musical festival ever in the world", and also includes other Mali tribes people.

Plant said the sound they created reminded him of his childhood love of the American Delta Blues, which includes bluesmen like Robert Johnson.

"There is contemporary reflection of life here," he said. "There are heroes but these are the same heroes that were here at the time of all revolution and all political and sociological change."

Difficult life

A festival spokesperson added that the Tuareg music often provided new generations with a sense of their history.

But in addition to educating, it is also considered a soundtrack to everyday life.

"This music helps a man while travelling in achieving his nomadic task," he explained.

"Nomadic life can be very difficult, particularly with the wind, the dryness and the sun."

"It helps him to travel long distances by camel or car. It is like an emotion which helps him to lighten his burden and enjoy his life more."

Progress

Throughout Plant's musical quest, Ali Farka Toure - one of Africa's most celebrated musicians - has accompanied him.

Toure said he believes music can transcend cultures and provide hope.

"This festival has been organised to show that in the Third World there is peace, a social life and progress," he said.

"When the will exists it can be done, even in the worst conditions.

"The festival shows that peace and prosperity can prevail in the context of a cultural and spiritual development."

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 ON THIS STORY
Robert Plant talks to Arts In Action
"I was attracted by the Tuareg lifestyle. The music reminded me of the reason why I sang in the first place "
See also:

20 Sep 02 | England
14 Oct 02 | Entertainment
22 Oct 02 | England
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