“I want to be a musician, to bring joy and peace”
Hi Amiri. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Amiri Ag Abdoulaye. I’m 18, I live in Ouagadougou and I’m a performer. I sing, I’m a musician, I play the guitar and I’m also a dancer. I now live in Ouaga [the short name for Ouagadougou] but before that I was in the refugee camp at Djibo Mentao in the north of Burkina Faso, in the Sahel. Things weren’t good. Terrorists threatened us and we had to leave. So in 2019, I came with my family to Ouaga.
And how did you discover music and dance?
When I was in the camp, in 2012, Salia Sanou [a dancer well-known in Burkina Faso] came with musicians and dancers. I began dancing with him. And in 2017, I was chosen for a project with Patrick Kabré [a Burkinabe musician], a training course in dance and in making djembés [a kind of drum]. We learned to play and we were able to teach other children in the camp, to make music and dance with them. I also learned to play the guitar with Sidi [a musician from Mali]. Then in 2018, I joined La Termitière training college, with Salia Sanou. I continued to learn guitar there, as well as dance, in a show called “Body Dialogues” with other refugees. We put on several shows in Ouaga. And that’s when I decided that that’s what I want to do – music and dance.
Would you like to make a career of it? Is that your dream?
My dream is to be a great musician … My story isn’t easy to tell. I’d like to be a musician to bring people joy. I’ve lived through a lot, a lot of troubles, starting in my country [Mali] up to when I came here to Burkina. I have messages for people. too … Since I was 10, I’ve lived through awful times.
And music helps with that?
Yes, it brings me peace and I want to give people joy.
What are you doing to make your dream come true, to be a great musician?
I keep playing the guitar. I study alone. I don’t have a teacher because I can’t afford to go to a school, to get a professional training. I’ve made a few videos.
Do you practise regularly?
Every day, I practise guitar and dancing. I make tea, sit down and start playing, for myself or for my friends.
Is it important to have a dream?
It’s important. In the situation I’m in, I can’t do what I want, or speak about what I want. My life isn’t what I’d like it to be. I’d like to forget what I went through in the camp and music helps me forget. It brings joy, it heals. When I sing or when I dance, I forget what I’ve been through.
Do you write your own songs? What are they about?
Yes, I write them myself. They’re about life, about peace. I have one with Patrick Kabré where I say that we children want peace and joy.
Do you ever lose heart?
Sometimes I feel discouraged. I can’t go out, I can’t go see my friends, study with them … I’d like to find a place to keep learning, to have a guitar and keep on playing. The “Body Dialogues” project will start again in 2021 and I’ll be able to keep on dancing.
Do your parents help you?
They encourage me, but they don’t have money. But they give me advice.
What advice would you give to younger children?
To children who haven’t lived through what I have, I say they’re very lucky to be able to stay at home and do what they want … I’d advise them to keep on going to school, to listen to their parents. You should keep on learning! For children like me, I say there’s a lot you can do. You can be a musician, a singer, a dancer, make things … You mustn’t just do nothing!
Can anyone become a dancer or musician?
You have to be able to tell your story, with your body, without speaking.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’d like to be a great musician, giving shows, concerts. Being famous!