|At many Balani shows locals rent speakers and hire an M.C.,|
often pulling electricity from somebody’s house via an extension cord for a fee.
Michaël Zumstein/Agence Vu, for The New York Times
This was the scene Christopher Kirkley found in 2009. A musicologist, he traveled to Mali hoping to record the haunting desert blues he loved. But every time he asked people to perform a favorite folk song or ballad, they pulled out their cellphones to play it for him; every time he set up his gear to capture a live performance, he says, “five other kids will be holding their cellphones recording the same thing — as an archivist, it kind of takes you down a couple of notches.” Kirkley has since released compilations of music from what he has called “digital Bamako” and other places across the Sahara, as well as solo albums by artists who appeared on them.Get off my lawn you little digital bastards!