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From Mali to Michigan: A Musical Bridge
Produced and Edited by Louise M. Bourgault and Bob Thomson

This documentary grew out of a research project undertaken by NMU Communications Professor and African Specialist Dr. Louise Bourgault.  In 2003, she traveled to Mali, West Africa on a Fulbright Research Grant that studied the use of the performing arts in the struggle against HIV/AIDS.  In the course of her fieldwork she met a remarkable musician, pop diva Naïny Diabaté who had released an AIDS song entitled SIDA in 2001.  Ms. Diabaté, a member of the renowned jalia professional caste of musicians, had been singing traditional songs since the age of six.  But like many members of this group, she also has a thriving career in pop and world music, one that takes her around West Africa, North Africa and Europe on tour. Bourgault and Diabaté struck up a friendship.

The pop diva was eager to develop some new sounds and work with some new musicians.  In 2006, Bourgault arranged for Ms. Diabaté to visit Northern Michigan University and to jam with Marquette performers.  WNMU-TV producer Bob Thomson and his staff documented a good deal of this visit, interviewing the star and the group that backed up her singing in Marquette.  “From Mali to Michigan: A Musical Bridge” highlights the extraordinary musical collaboration of Naïny Diabaté with local talent.  The video also draws from Bourgault’s footage of Mali, providing a glimpse at the social, musical and performative world of West Africa that nurtured Naïny Diabaté and her singing career.