I met a singer form Timbuktu once. She was a stout woman, with skin so dark and smooth that it shone against the sun. Her nose had a kind of arrowhead shape to it, which, when teemed with her warm smile and rosy cheeks gave off such a maternal vibe. When she sings, you’re hypnotized. She doesn’t have what you would call the pop-culture perception of a good voice. She doesn’t wail repeatedly, or make that kind of throaty grunt most favored by them lot in Idol shows.
This woman’s voice rises up and down in the natural rhythm of the desert. She sings of loss, of joy, of the sun, the moon, the vast open land and her home. I spoke virtually no Koyra Chiini, and she doesn’t speak a word of English apart from “Hello”, yet we understood each other perfectly. I asked her to sing me a song about a bird as I foolishly tried to mimic one in motion. She laughed and covered her mouth with her scarf, saying something to the effect of “silly monkey”, I’m sure. No matter, I’d make a fool of myself a million times over if it meant I’d make new friends.
Then she started. She swayed gently as the others accompanied her. Her voice was like honey to my ears. It traveled in the wind, and amalgamated with the heat to form such a beautiful tale. I sat by her, watching her in action, listening intently as I felt a solitary tear down my cheek. It wasn’t a particularly sad song, yet I was moved all the same. I got up and danced by myself. I lifted my hands in the air, kicked the sand and closed my eyes, turning and turning. For a second, I felt like the bird, so free, high up in the sky. I stopped when she did and I found her staring at me with a smile. “I understand you”, she said with just a look. “You silly monkey”, that, that she said out loud.