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Robert Plant Finds Blues Roots in the Sahara

Festival in the Desert
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Festival in the Desert

Robert Plant's fascination with the blues goes back to his early days as lead singer for Led Zeppelin. Plant says the roots of that uniquely American art form may be traced to the deserts of Western Africa. He tells NPR's Renee Montagne about the connection he discovered at the Festival in the Desert, a gathering of nomads and musicians in Mali.

The festival is an annual gathering of tribal nomads known as Tuareg (or Tamashek), who move through the southern Sahara Desert. This year, the festival featured musicians from Mali, Senegal, Mauritania and Niger as well as artists from Europe and the United States.

"I'm not an anthropologist, but I just have to say that what was going down musically and the mood of it all sounded like some kind of primeval connection with what you would call the blues," Plant tells Montagne. He says that because natives of Niger and Mali were taken to the United States as slaves, "the link is there" to the blues that later emerged in the Mississippi Delta.

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