Reaching Ke-Massina had been stressful. Imran had watched his guitar fly off the roof of our moving bus onto the dusty road behind us and we had both begun to wonder if our long journey from Bamako would be worth it.
But to our surprise the guitar survived its fall at 50 km per hour and as we arrived in the tiny village things began to look up.
Greeted by dinner and friendly faces, we had a quick jam before jumping in a pinasse to cross the River Niger reaching the small island of sand where the Festival Culturel Waakono would take place.
As we left the pinasse and paddled through the river water to the island we spotted the small stage area. Fairy lights flashed neon blue, strung over wooden poles with electrical cables creeping over one another. Large crowds of locals gathered, a circle formed around the stage and the smell of brochettes warmed the fresh river air.
It was not difficult to see that this festival was different. A little bit special. Organised and financed by Malian musicians for the benefit of the local people and for us, a lovely place to play our first gig of Mali…