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Robert Plant captures Mali trek in 'Zirka' documentary

November 12, 2013|By Randy Lewis
  • Ex-Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant filmed his trip to Mali in 2003 for the Festival of the Desert. It is now appearing as the eight-part series "Zirka" on his YouTube channel.
Ex-Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant filmed his trip to Mali in 2003… (Robert Plant )

The thought of home movies of a trip abroad can elicit groans, unless they happen to be taken by somebody like Robert Plant.

Using footage from a 2003 trip to Mali to take part in the Festival of the Desert, Plant  assembled an eight-episode documentary called "Zirka," which boasts a soundtrack that features Ali Farka Touré, Tinariwen and many others.

Plant's images -- yes, he did the bulk of the filming himself -- capture the people and landscape of the African nation during a trip he describes in a statement as "a journey of revelation ... one of the most illuminating and humbling experiences of my life." A new episode premieres each week on Plant's official YouTube channel.

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The Led Zeppelin singer has long incorporated disparate elements of world music into his own, from those of central Europe and Africa to strains out of the rural Southern regions of the U.S. Many of those elements surfaced during Plant's recent world tour with his latest band, the Sensational Space Shifters, which played Los Angeles last spring.

Plant also said the visit to Mali was “a journey that took us from the scurry and bustle of our world into the homeland of the Tuareg, the Sahel of Mali, Timbuctu and north to Essakane; a journey that could only reinforce the power and the great gift of music across and between cultures. Sharing outside of language. A world where, for awhile at least, borders, boundaries and barriers once again fell away ... as it was long ago."

Whether he’ll make an album with the Sensational Space Shifters remains to be seen, but Plant is now at work with collaborator Buddy Miller on a follow-up to their 2010 album “Band of Joy.” Plant told The Times earlier this year that they’d come up with a wealth of material and that he was looking forward to finishing another album with the band, which was revived after being orginally formed by Plant in 1966.

Here’s the first episode, “Zirka Part 1, Malian Journey”:


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Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2 


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