Music enthusiasts drawn to Mali desert for tenth annual festival

Music enthusiasts drawn to Mali desert for tenth annual festivalTimbuktu (Mali), Jan 8 - The tenth edition of Mali's popular Festival in the Desert kicked off Thursday evening on the outskirts of the legendary city of Timbuktu in the Sahara desert.

Close to 10,000 music fans - some from as far away as Japan and the United States - joined local Tuareg, nomads in the dunes, to hear some of Mali's and Africa's biggest music stars perform over three days.

The tenth anniversary of the festival coincides with the launch of Mali's 50th anniversary celebrations marking its freedom from France.

The festival is inspired by an annual three-day meeting of rival Tuareg clans, who gather in the desert for a cultural exchange including camel races, music and poetry.

For the event's first nine years, it was held 60 km north of Timbuktu in the desert at Essakane. But this year the event was moved within two kilometres of Timbuktu, primarily for security reasons.

Northern Mali has been hit with a travel warning by the US and British embassies following a series of kidnappings of Westerners by suspected Islamists.

The headliners at this year's festival include: Toumani Diabate; Tinariwen; and legendary Senageles Ishmael Lo. (dpa)