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In Africa, Bono sings to local rhythms

U2 singer takes a night off from his aid tour to chant at a Mali bar
/ Source: Reuters

Rock star Bono took a night off from campaigning on aid for Africa and went back to his day job -- music -- as he sang along with a local band in a 1,000-year-old chant in the West African state of Mali.

Bono, on a six-nation Africa tour, dropped in on Monday night with some aides at the Piroge bar and restaurant on the banks of the Niger River in the Mali capital Bamako.

They listened to the Samaquera band, which plays songs that are more than a millennium old using a prehistoric banjo, the Djelin’goni, made from wood, cow hide and twisted fishing line for strings.

During the last song, the Irish rocker stood up, took the microphone and joined in for about 10 minutes in an archetypal African chant, adding words as he went along.

“It’s astonishing music,” he said afterwards. “I wonder if the songs are exactly as they were back then or if they’ve been changed.”

It was a quiet night at the Piroge and only a handful of locals appeared to recognize the star.

Bono and his advocacy group DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) are calling on the West not to renege on promises of increased aid. They had started the day at a school in Abuja, Nigeria, and went on to Mali to see how local farmers are directly affected by low cotton prices they blame on U.S. cotton subsidies.