Malian guitarist, vocalist and composer Mamadou Kelly
continues his collaboration with American musicians on Les Bateaux (The Boats).
Kelly’s music contains a mix of upbeat traditional Malian music and transfixing
Malian desert blues.
The title of the album refers to the boats that brought food to Malian villagers during the overwhelming drought of the 1970s. Mamadou Kelly sings about history, daily life and honors those who have done commendable things.
Les Bateaux includes his Malian band and additional Malian musicians who regularly work with Kelly along with American friend, celebrated guitarist Cindy Cashdollar on lap steel guitar, and two other American musicians: Jacob Silver and David Rothenberg.
The lineup includes Mamadou Kelly on lead guitar and vocals; Aly Magassa on electric guitar; Kande Sissoko on ngoni; Hamadoun “Afo” Guindo on calabash and drums; Adama Sidibe on balafon; Madou Diabate on violin; Hama Sangho on backing vocals; Jacob Silver on bass; Cindy Cashdollar on lap steel guitar; and David Rothenberg on clarinets and bass clarinet.
Les Bateaux was recorded live in Bamako (Mali) and New York.
The most famous of the Tuareg desert blues bands, Tinariwen, made their new album during a road trip from southern Morocco to Nuakchot in Mauritania. The project started after Tinariwen’s October 2018 performance at the Taragalte Festival of nomadic cultures in the Moroccan Sahara. Tinariwen traveled with their French production team, who drove an old camper van that has been turned into a provisional mobile studio.
The road trip along Africa’s Atlantic coast took about 12 days. The Malian band and crew crossed southern Morocco, the Western Sahara and ended up in Nuakchott, the capital of Mauritania. Throughout the journey, the caravan stopped to set up camp. Tinariwen’s musicians made preparations for the recording and rehearsed their songs.
Once in Nuakchott, Tinariwen spent two weeks recording with celebrated Mauritanian musician Noura Mint Seymali and her guitarist husband, Jeiche Ould Chigaly. The recordings were made under a large tent, with a small number of live takes, devoid of headphones or effects.
Amadjar showcases Tinariwen’s characteristic style: slow paced, dreamy songs featuring creative bluesy electric guitar lines and call and response vocals, enriched with violin, Noura Mint Seymali’s traditional ardin harp, handclapping rhythms and percussion.
Amadjar is a well-constructed, deeply mesmerizing album by one of the finest bands out of Mali.
Goumour Almoctar, beter known as Bombino, was born on January
1, 1980, in Tidene, Niger, a settlement of nomadic Tuaregs located about 80
kilometers to the northeast of Agadez.
Bombino spent his early childhood between the encampment and
the town of Agadez, the largest city in northern Niger and historically a part
of the ancient Sahara trade routes connecting North Africa and the
Mediterranean with West Africa.
Bombino attended a French-Arabic school that taught both French
and classic Arabic.
After the first Tuareg rebellion in Mali and Niger, Bombino
fled with his father and grandmother to stay with near relatives in Algeria.
One day, relatives arrived from the front lines of the rebellion, carrying with
them two guitars that they left behind for a few months. Bombino began to teach
himself to play the guitars.
Bombino and his family decided to move back to Agadez.
During a trip to Niamey, Niger for medical treatment, Bombino met with his
uncle Rissa Ixa, a famous Tuareg painter, who gave him a guitar. After
returning to Agadez, Bombino joined the Tuareg political party where he met the
best guitarist of the party, a man named Haja Bebe. He received lessons,
improving so fast that Haja Bebe invited him to join his band. It was during
that time that Bombino acquired his nickname. As the youngest and smallest
member of the band, the other members called him Bombino, a variation on the
Italian word bambino for “little child.”
Bombino got a role as an extra in the French film Imuhar: A
Legend that was filmed in the nearby desert. After finishing his work on the
film, Bombino settled into life as working musician, performing at political
rallies, weddings, and other ceremonies.
He argued often with his father, who did not want his son to
become a musician. To escape this problem, Bombino decided to travel to Algeria
and Libya in 1996. In Libya, he made friends with some local musicians, and
they spent time watching videos of Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits
and others in an effort to master their skills. Bombino was rapidly becoming an
accomplished guitarist and was in high demand as a backing musician. While working as a herder in the desert near
Tripoli, Libya, Bombino spent many hours alone watching the animals and
practicing his guitar.
Eventually, Bombino decided to return to Niger, where he continued to play with various local bands. As his legend grew, a Spanish documentary film crew helped Bombino record his first album, which became a local hit on Agadez radio. The success of the album validated Bombino’s choice to make a career out of music, and he began playing regularly for tourists and locals alike.
In 2006, Bombino traveled to California with the band Tidawt
for a tour organized by a non-profit organization. During the trip, he recorded a desert blues
version of the Rolling Stones classic “Hey Negrita” together with Stones’
members Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. The track appears on the 2008 album
led by Rolling Stones saxophonist Tim Riese, titled Stone’s World: The Rolling
Stones Project Volume 2.
In 2007, the second Tuareg rebellion began, and the
government countermeasures were powerful and arbitrary. Many civilians were killed and farms and
livestock were devastated in an effort to crush the rebellion. The government’s
tactics only served to incite the Tuareg community, and many around Bombino
joined the rebellion. Government forces killed two of Bombino’s musicians, so
he fled in exile to Burkina Faso along with many of his fellow Tuaregs.
In 2009, he met filmmaker Ron Wyman who had heard a cassette of Bombino’s music while traveling near Agadez. Wyman was enchanted by Bombino’s music and spent a year seeking him out, eventually tracking him down to Wagadugu, Burkina Faso, where Bombino was living in exile. While there, Wyman decided to feature Bombino in a documentary he was filming about the Tuareg. Later that year, he took Bombino to Cambridge, Massachusetts to begin recording the album Agadez in his home studio.
On April 2, 2013, Bombino made his Nonesuch Records debut with the release of the album Nomad. Nomad debuted at #1 on the Billboard World Music album chart and earned enthusiastic reviews.
Bombino traveled to Woodstock, New York in late 2015 to
record Azel (2015). There were a few remarkable innovations on this album. The
first is the introduction of a new style Bombino is pioneering that he warmly calls
‘Tuareggae’ – a mix of Tuareg blues/rock with reggae. Another is the first-ever use of Western
vocal harmonies in recorded Tuareg music.
In November 2017, Bombino and his group traveled to
Casablanca, Morocco to record Deran (Partisan Records). Bombino wished to
return to Africa to record and to step away from celebrity producers to create
the most authentic expression of his music possible. Deran benefited from deeper involvement from
his band – Youba Dia (bass), Illias Mohamed (rhythm guitar) and Corey Wilhelm
(drums), and Mohamed Araki Eltayeb (keys) – in arrangement and other creative
Bombino is an advocate for teaching children the Tuareg language of Tamashek, the Berber language, as well as French and Arabic, all of which he speaks fluently. “We fought for our rights,” says Bombino, “but we have seen that guns are not the solution. We need to change our system. Our children must go to school and learn about their Tuareg identity.”
Agamgam 2004 (Reaktion, 2010) Agadez (Cumbancha Records, 2011) Nomad (Nonesuch, 2013) Azel (Partisan Records, 2015) Live At The Belly Up (Belly Up Live, 2016) Deran (Partisan Records, 2018)
World music fans looking for
a desert blues/rock fix get their wish on February 15th with the
release of Kel Assouf’s Black Tenere. To be released on the Glitterbeat Records
label, Black Tenere is the follow-up recording to Kel Assouf’s 2016 release of
Tikounen and the 2013 release of Tin Hinane. Burning bright with Belgium based,
but Nigerien born, front man and guitarist Anana Ag Haroun, Belgium jazz drummer
Oliver Penu and Tunisia born keyboardist Sofyann Ben Youssef, who also took on
producing the album, Black Tenere is a razor sharp call of the Kel Tamashek or
Tuareg culture as well as a blistering delicious addition to Kel Assouf’s
Black Tenere thrives on
potent duality where homage is paid to the Kel Tamashek (Tuareg) traditions and
current struggles for independence and a contemporary delving into Western rock
influences like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Queen of the Stone Age with
some European electronic soundscapes tossed in for good measure.
Noting that, “These days I’m a Belgian when I’m in Niger and a Nigerien when I’m in Belgium,” Anana Ag Haroun says, “My musical tastes didn’t change but they are expanding further thanks to my different encounters and my curiosity. Black Tenere is a rock album. It’s a choice to give a more original touch that builds up the identity of Kel Assouf and differentiates it from the other groups of Ishumar music. For me the music has to travel and it has to be open to other sounds so that everyone can listen to the messages it carries.”
Black Tenere opens
with fiery “Fransa,” replete with call and response vocals, guitar, keyboards
and the familiar rolling rhythm, taking on the complexities of French intervention
and squaring that with the state of their own nomadic way of life. “Fransa”
gives way to the hard rocking “Tenere” with some truly kickass drumming, guitar
licks and keyboards. “Alyochan” is just as amazing with driving drumming.
“Tamatant” is where Black Tenere takes a sharp left turn to land listeners into
dreamy electronic soundscape. The guitar licks seem to be suspended in space
and the vocals soulful.
The electronica is
part and parcel to Mr. Ben Youssef’s influences, his own work on AMMAR 808, a
Pan-Maghreb futurism and the Stockholm Stureparken Studio where Black Tenere
Mr. Ben Youssef explains, “Stureparken is a studio owned by musicians, one of them is a friend and fellow producer. The thing that is special about the studio is that it has a huge collection of keyboards, synths, guitars, basses and drums as well. All of them are vintage instruments, with some being rarer than others. The idea was to have more choices of good or weird sounding instruments. We were trying to find some special sounds and kept experimenting around that idea.”
He goes on, “I have been a rocker since my teens. I was trying to translate the Kel Assouf trio into a sound half way between its Nigerien roots and 70’s rock, but also stoner rock, which is a music I played for many years. The rhythmic parts and synths show something from my electronic alter-ego AMMAR 808. I tried to tie together my disparate influences: electronic, ambient and rock. It was a natural thing to do after playing with Kel Assouf for all these years. The sound of the album is inspired from the musicians and their personalities, including myself.”
Black Tenere swings back into rock grooves with “America” and “Amghar” before delving into the deliciously trippy “Ariyal.” This track doesn’t really start, but unfolds by way of opening cymbals and drums before electronica and keyboards take over and finally guitar lines emerge. By the time the full throat of the song emerges “Ariyal” is all savage coolness. Perhaps one of my own favorites on Black Tenere is “Taddout.” With spacey electronica and keyboards opening into lanky, open sky guitar licks and rolling rhythm “Taddout” comes across as preciously personal as intimate vocals sing about desert life with the lyrics”
I follow the traces of antelopes,
I live in the desert and its storms,
my favorite flower is that of acacia. It’s called Tabsit.
Its perfume is that of freedom and loneliness,
Far from the tumult of city life.
It is Anana Ag Haroun who sums it up, “Music is a weapon of war without violence. It is a claim for justice and it is also the soul of humanity. It brings together human beings from different cultures and different languages and from different countries. If we were to invest more in culture today and less in weapons, the world would be different. Music is peace for our souls.”
One of the rising stars of Tuareg desert blues, Mdou Moctar, is set to perform on Friday, January 18, 2019 at Gramps in Miami.
Nigerien Mdou Moctar is in position to become the next big guitar hero in Saharan Tuareg music, following in the footsteps of Tinariwen and Bombino. His discography includes Sousoume Tamachek and Afelan.
This concert is a part of Rhythm Foundation’s Festival in the Desert Caravan concert series.
10:00 pm – 11:59 pm
In Baba Salama Said’s passport it said he was born in Oran on January 14 of 1969. It was an Algerian passport of convenience, recognized by the UN, in order to give legal support to somebody who lived in a refugee camp. What is certain is that Salama Baba was born on that date, not in Oran but in the Auserd, the real Auserd, occupied by Morocco together with the rest of the territory of the Western Sahara.
As many other Saharawis, he was forced to go into exile when Morocco and Mauritania, with the approval of Spain, divided the territory among themselves and took over the former Spanish colony. He was a boy hardly six years old and he had to witness the horror of the war, the terrible flight, and a life change that he could hardly understand. The only consolation was the comfort provided by his family and his people when they lifted tents amid a stony area in the Algerian Hamada, to create the refugee camps where the Saharawis settled.
The settlement that serves as the entrance to the camps is called Rabouni and is near Tinduf. There are numerous offices belonging to the bureaucracy of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. And it was there in Rabouni where Baba Salama formed his first musical group in which he tried to combine traditional songs with others of more modern inspiration. His band mates were Boika Hassan (Mariem Hassan’s brother) also on the guitar, Tayeb on bass, Gringo on drums, and singers Ali Chej and Jalihena. The group was called Naji.
In January of 1998, a crew of Spanish musicians and producers visited the 4 Saharawi camps, carrying out recordings in each one of them. No one noticed Baba Salama because he was not part of any of the official groups of traditional music that worked in each one of the wilayas [administrative subdivision or province].
He was discovered by chance when, as they were packing their suitcases to return to Spain, the team of producers came across him in a shed that his band used as rehearsing space in Smara. Rehearsing with him were Mohamed Salec playing the tidinit (a Saharawi instrument of dug out wood and a leather cover, similar to a four-stringed lute); Husein on a very simple flute; Fatata, a percussionist, playing the tebal (large North African side drum) with one hand and a conga with the other; and Shueta, an exceptional singer who had a sore throat at the time.
Baba’s guitar style was very different to what the recording crew had listened to during the two week stay in the desert. Accustomed to Nayim Alal’s technique, who had nearly become the official guitarist of the expedition, they found Salama Baba’s feel, with his Spanish guitar, extremely sweet and decided to improvise a recording right there. It was an instrumental piece, since the singer, Shueta, could not articulate a word. “Dance of Smara” appeared in the album In spite of the wounds [which is included in the boxed set Music of Western Sahara], dedicated to Saharawi women. Baba’s guitar recreated with its rhythm the trot of the camels in the desert. In the recording one can also detect a certain appreciation for Western music that would later show in his future works.
Later, Baba married a Saharawi woman and moved to Seville (Spain). That way he was able to participate in recordings made in Madrid. The Spanish capital was the base for several European tours made by Saharawi band Leyoad. Recording sessions were made little by little, at Axis studios, depending on which musician or singer participated in the corresponding tour. Baba earned the trust of Saharawi singer Mariem Hassan, whom he knew from the Smara camp.
In 2002 an album came out that catapulted Mariem Hassan to stardom. On Mariem Hassan with Leyoad, Baba contributed the majority of the songs and guitar parts. For the live presentations of the album in 2003 and 2004, Mariem Hassan was finally able to form a stable group. By that time Baba Salama, who had gotten a divorce, was devoted in body and soul to the project. The band included Boika Hassan on the second guitar, Mariem on vocals, and a percussionist and dancer, completing the group. Fatta Sadaf performed in the concerts held in Spain, and Vadiya mint el Hanevi, joined the band when they traveled abroad.
Baba Salama had a major influence in Mariem Hassan with Leyoad. He wrote many of the songs and his guitar can be heard throughout the album. He achieved a laid back sound that only old bluesmen dominate.
In 2003, Nar was released. It was the debut album by his friend Nayim Alal. The strong musical personality of Nayim dominates the recording. Baba collaborated with Nayim and enjoyed seeing how Saharawi musicians were finally able to capture many of the ideas that they had pursued for many years.
The following work in which he participated is Medej, released in 2004. For the first time the Saharawis published an album entirely dedicated to the Prophet Mohammed. On this CD, where the desert blues is clearly visible, Baba and Nayim Alal recorded a track together titled “Mijairis.” This name corresponds with the instrument Nayim invented. Baba played it and Nayim accompanied him on the tidinit. It is a delightful piece which shows the kind nature of Baba Salama in each note.
By that year, Mariem Hassan’s project was finalized. During the more than fifty concerts played throughout Europe, the musicians practiced their new style and perfected the songs. They recovered old songs to which they gave new life. They played a breathtaking version of “The intifada,” Mariem Hassan’s most famous song. And they rushed without any prejudice to mix the haul with the blues, or whatever they considered appropriate for Mariem?s music.
The recording of Deseos (Desires), was the fruit of the intense work during 2004. Baba Salama assumed the musical direction of the album. A lot of his knowledge and humanity are included there. He gave Mariem everything she needed to feel comfortable and confident. And she sang like she had never sang before.
In March of 2005, Mariem was hospitalized in Spain for breast cancer treatment. Baba Salama took advantage of the sudden tour break imposed by Mariem’s illness to return to the camps. He went back whenever he had an opportunity. Upon returning to Spain in the middle of summer, everything happened very fast. Baba was suffering from leukemia in a very advanced phase, which was putting an end to his life.
On August 24, at half past six in the morning, his heart failed. On Sunday, August 28, his body returned to the camps in the airplane in which Saharawi children returned from spending the summer with Spanish families. His son remained in Seville, young Hamad Babas Salama, barely four years old. He has a Spanish passport.
[Biography adapted and translated by Angel Romero from an original by Manuel Dominguez. Courtesy of Nubenegra].
Tinariwen (originally Taghreft Tinariwen, or “edification of the lands”) became known for vocalizing the political plight of endangered nomads. Their music spoke to the Tuareg or Kel Tamashek, appealing for a political awakening of consciousness.
For a century, the tribes of the southern Sahara searched the barren landscape for every weapon available to maintain hope in the midst of ethnic cleansing and public executions. With the dawn of the 21st Century, the Kel Tamashek turned to the global circuit. Musicians are the modern warriors. And lyrics have changed to focus on suffering, love, and hope. A Tinariwen song claims, “If I could sing so that those in London could hear, then the whole world would hear my song.”
Although Tinariwen formed in 1982, they remained underground (Mali and Algeria banned the political lyrics) until the group moved to the Malian capital of Bamako in 1999. There, the ten members drew on a rebel rock sensibility, openly playing their passionate, trance-like Desert Blues. During the first eclipse (and first full moon) of the millennium, Tinariwen performed at The Festival in the Desert. Staged near the ancient ruins of Tamaradant, remote and distant from any visible life, the Festival was an effort to further goals of reconciliation, development, and international awareness.
Reporter Andy Morgan asserted that Tinariwen’s soulful music produced a magical effect on the crowd, causing “the young Tuaregs to stamp and dance with abandon in front of the stage. These men were heroes and mentors.” The ten band members are indeed the pride of the Tuareg people. Experiences in battle have created many legends. Kheddou is said to have received 17 bullet wounds after leading several raids, armed only with a guitar on his back and a Kalashnikov in his hands. Once, he was doused in gasoline, owing his life to a faulty lighter.
After witnessing his father’s murder at the hands of Malian soldiers, a drought forced Ibrahim to join a training camp in southern Libya, where Ghadaffi made promises to help the Tamashek cause. In between classes about revolution, Islamism, and guerrilla warfare, Ibrahim smoked cigarettes and played music with Hassan and Intayedan (who has since passed away). Upon hearing the music of Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Moroccan music for the first time, they discarded traditional instruments like the shepherd flute and tinde drum in favor of the electric guitar, bass, and drums. However, they continued the tradition of Assak, or the traditional male skills of poetic composition, and choral call-and-response. Soon they became musical revolutionaries, creating a new style of music called Tishoumaren, or simply guitar.
The songs of Tinariwen are petitions for political and cultural self-determination. They have become a point of identity for Tuareg youth. In a land void of laptops and TVs, cheap cassette recordings spread hope and resolve. Sick of the suffering caused by armed rebellion, the music of bands like Tinariwen is the new weapon of choice.
Elwan (The Elephants), is Tinariwen’s seventh album, recorded in the rocky desert near M’Hamid, a small town in southern Morocco, located in the Draa valley in the Zagora area. The area was chosen because their home town in northern Mali proved too unstable and dangerous due to renewed conflict. It is also a place of significant cultural importance to the Tuareg-Berber people, the location where all the caravans would stop before making the long journey to Timbuktu.
The 2019 album Amadjar was recorded in Mauritania with Noura Mint Seymali and her husband, Jeiche Ould Chigaly.
Ali Farka Toure – The Source (World Circuit, 2018, reissue)
With our eyes firmly fixed on the far horizon we want the new. We want what’s next. We not only want the new, we demand it. We’ve boiled our lives down to frantically seeking out what’s the latest, what’s right around the next corner that we can grasp onto before discarding it by the wayside for the next thing, the latest stuff, the hottest new trend just beyond our reach. I bet there are more than a few out there who can barely tolerate leftovers from last night’s dinner.
I’m here to remind you that there are some things worth revisiting. I’m not talking about some somber commemorations of old disasters or old political scandals or the hairstyles of your youth. I am, of course, referring to a collection of songs, and not just any collection, but a powerhouse recording by the father of desert blues Ali Farka Toure and the recording The Source.
Originally put out in 1992 and the first recording for the Malian guitarist with his band Group Asco, The Source wasn’t Mr. Toure’s merry-go-round or his first recording. Recordings on Sonafric like Ali Toure Farka and Biennale and the Sonodisc/Esperance recordings Ali Farka Toure (Red) and Ali Farka Toure (Green) appeared before The Source. It was following the release of The River on the label World Circuit, where The Source bubbles up from the earth and Mr. Toure takes listeners on musical landscapes like Talking Timbuktu with Ry Cooder, Niafunke, Mississippi to Mali with Corey Harris, In the Heart of the Moon with Toumani Diabate and Ry Cooder, Savane and Ali and Toumani. Mr. Toure showed us The Source and we all listened.
As luck would have it, World Circuit has just announced the release of a special edition of The Source. Re-mixed, remastered from the original tapes, The Source is now out for the first time on vinyl with a 28-page color booklet. This is the kind of re-issue you all want. This is where going back is all just so very fine.
The Source is good. Not just the shove into your shoulder good. It isn’t even the smack up side the head good. This goes beyond even the roundhouse to the kisser good. No, this is the Jackie Chan kick to the head, lay you out on the floor, leaving you incapable of movement other than just to listen kind of good. And, trust me, you’ll want to just lay still as the opening strains “Goye Kur” worm their way into your brain. It’s all there on The Source – Mr. Toure on guitar and njarka violin, Afel Bocoum on vocals and Hamma Sankare on calabash and Oumar Toure on congas. Rolling rhythms, call-and-response vocals and some of the sweetest desert blues guitar licks make The Source savagely good.
Desert blues fans get the whole revisit tour with “Inchana Massina,” the low down magical bluesy “Roucky,” the sassy “Dofana” and tantalizing “Karaw.” “Hawa Dolo” makes everything all right with guest artist Taj Mahal, as do tracks like the sweetly worked “Cinquante Six,” the upbeat “I Go Ka” and the swinging “Mahini Me.” Closing is just as powerful with “Takamba.”
So, while you may have your gaze fixed on the horizon, going back to listen to The Source proves just as sweet.
Wande showcases the talent and innovation of Malian guitarist and vocalist Samba Touré. On Wande, Touré to return to a more traditional, acoustic sound. It’s a delight for guitar fans and lovers of what has been called desert blues, the music of northern Mali, Niger, Mauritania and the Western Sahara.
What sets Touré’s music a part is his use of traditional instruments such as the tama, the talking drum that plays a leading role throughout the album. Touré dedicated a love song to his wife in the title cut and also celebrates the late Zoumana Tereta, the musician that participated in many of his recordings playing the soku, a Wasulu fiddle. Zouman appears in the form of some samples of his performances.
Although the focus is on a more acoustic sound, the album still has fine examples of electric guitar, including ventures into blues rock, with few overdubs. Overall, Wande has a trance-like feel with repetitive laid back sections, superb solos and fiery electric guitar parts.