Inspiring Tehardent Tuareg Music from Mali

Al Bilali Soudan - Al Bilali Soudan
Al Bilali Soudan – Al Bilali Soudan
Al Bilali Soudan

Al Bilali Soudan (Clermont Music CLE 2012001CD, 2012)

With the increasing interest in Tuareg music, most of the focus in recent years has been in the modern acts like Tinariwen, Tarakeft, Bombino who perform the popular desert blues style. Now Clermont Music takes listeners to the more traditional side of Tuareg music with an album by Timbuktu band Al Bilali Soudan.

The group’s name is the early name of the city of Timbuktu. Al Bilali Soudan perform takamba music, also known as tashigalt. It is also called tehardent, named after the traditional stringed instrument played by the musicians. It is a form of improvised music based on vocals, two tehardents and calabash percussion.

Al Bilali Soudan’s bandleader is Abellow Yattara, who comes from an eminent Tuareg family of musicians who have performed this type of music for generations. Yattara began to play the three-stringed fretless tehardent when he was 10 years old. Both his father and uncle were master musicians and his grandfather was also known for making the ceremonial swords used in traditional dance that accompanies the music.

The tehardent is broadly found in West Africa. It is called tehardent in Tamasheq (Tuareg language), ngoni in Bambara, kurbu in Songhai, and tidinit in Arabic.

Abellow Yattara has a long reciording career. He appeared in the first cassette recordings of Ali Farka Touré, the 1970s recordings of the Orchestre De Tombouctou, and many Radio Mali broadcasts. He also appears on Khaira Arby’s albums and is a popular act hired to perform at weddings, baptisms and other celebrations.

Al Bilali Soudan features cousins and in-laws. The lineup includes Abellow Yattara on tehardent, Aboubacrine Yattara on bass tehardent, Mohamed Dicko and Abdoulaye Ag Mohamed on calabash.

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