In 2003, Robert Plant was booked to perform in Mali at the Festival in the Desert, alongside Ali Farka Touré and Tinariwen. “It was a journey of revelation — one of the most illuminating and humbling experiences of my life,” Plant tells Rolling Stone. While he was there, Plant and his crew filmed their experience. Now, a decade later, Plant is releasing the documentary of the trip in an eight episode series on YouTube called Zirka.
The first episode follows Plant on his travels as he crosses the Malian terrain. He starts in the city, watching a raucous late night street dance. Then he crosses over into the countryside, stopping at what looks like a temple that has a shrine built from abandoned automatic rifles. Finally, he ends up deep in desert, sitting around a bonfire singing Ben E. King with African blues superstar Ali Farka Touré.
“[The trip] took us from the scurry and bustle of our world into the homeland of the Tuareg, the Sahel of Mali, Timbuctoo, and north to Essakane,” Plant recalls. “A journey that could only reinforce the power and the great gift of music across and between cultures. . . sharing outside of language.”