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.
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.
Too often when we hear “it must be something in the blood” it conjures up images of someone gone wrong somewhere, but nothing could be further from that kind of assumption when we’re talking about Mali’s Vieux Farka Toure.
Son of the musical powerhouse Ali Farka Toure, Vieux Farka Toure has not just continued in his father’s musical footsteps but blazed a path of his own with recordings like Vieux Farka Toure, Fondo, The Secret, Mon Pays and Touristes with Julia Easterlin and an ongoing collaboration with Israeli musician Idan Raichel on the Toure-Raichel Collective. And the righteous riffs just keep coming with the Six Degrees Records release of his latest of Samba.
Mr. Toure is just content to rest on his vocals and guitar playing laurels on Samba; instead he composed and arranged all the tracks and produced this latest with co-producer Eric Herman. Mr. Toure explains the recording process of Samba, “It was not a regular studio session nor was it a concert. It was somewhere in between. We were recording the album, but we had an audience of about fifty people in the room with us. The audience understood it was to witness the process of recording an album, not to present a concert in a studio, which was a very good thing because we got the energy of a live concert with the quality of a studio recording.”
Rich, warm and rewarding, Samba pulls at the threads of desert blues, funk, reggae, rock and Malian praise song to create a polished, masterful collection of tracks. From the opening of the guitar lick laced “Bonheur” through to the deliciously catchy “Ni Negaba,” Mr. Toure lets his listeners ride a wave of hypnotic grooves while using his musical voice to express the joys of family, the importance of protecting the environment and the pitfalls of religious fanaticism in the wake of Mali’s recent struggles with jihadism where music was banned and musicians were abused or exiled.
Backed by such musicians as drummer Mamadou Kone, calabash player Soulemane Kane, ngoni players Maffa Diabate and Abdoulaye Kone, bassists Marshall Henry, Eric Herman and Checikmare Ba, shaker and kourignans player Tim Keiper and organist and keyboardist Rob Cohen, Mr. Toure gives listeners a delicious ride on sizzling tracks like “Ba Kaitere” and “Homafu Wawa,” and doles out delectable treats like the guitar and ngoni enfused “Samba Si Kairi” and the cool grooves of “Nature.” Fans get a dose of guest keyboardist Idan Raichel on the track “Mariam,” a track dedicated to Mr. Toure’s little sister, and the delightfully elegant track “Maya.”
Despite some doubts about the success of Samba, Mr. Toure says of the experience, “It was an interesting idea but I did not know how it would go. Luckily everything was perfect. There was a great ambience there for the session and we were able to capture this unique energy for the album.”
Mr. Toure has certainly blazed his own path on Mali’s musical griot road of riches with Samba. Must be something in the blood.
Mamadou Kelly – Politiki (Clermont Music CLE 016CD, 2017)
Superb Malian guitarist Mamadou Kelly skillfully combines Saharan desert blues with American blues on Politiki.
In addition to his regular band, BanKaiNa, Mamadou Kelly invited American musicians such as award-winning steel guitar master Cindy Cashdollar, Susie Ibarra on drums, Jake Silver on bass, and Dan Littleton on guitars.
Politiki is a remarkable combination of West African and American blues genres featuring outstanding guitar work.
Acclaimed Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré will be touring the United States April-May 2017. The tour begins at Brooklyn New York’s BRIC House on Thursday, April 6th, coinciding with the official release of Samba (Six Degrees Records), Vieux Farka Touré’s new album.
Samba was recorded as part of the Woodstock Sessions, a series that combines live performance and studio recording with their ground-breaking venue.
While Touré was recording the album, he had an audience of about fifty people in the room. Touré received the vigor of a live concert with the quality of a studio recording. Touré was very satisfied with the experience, “we were able to capture this unique energy for the album.”
Vieux Farka Touré Spring 2017 Tour Dates:
4/6: BRIC House, Brooklyn, NY
4/7: Villa Victoria, Boston, MA
4/8: The Outdoor Space, Hamden, CT
4/10: World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA
4/11: Club Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA
4/12: Creative Alliance, Baltimore, MA
4/13: The Mothlight, Asheville, NC
4/14: King’s, Raleigh, NC
4/15: Charleston Pour House, Charleston, SC
4/18: Proud Larry’s Oxford, MI
4/19: Terminal West, Atlanta, CA
4/22: Transatlantic, Miami Beach, FL
4/24: Casbah, San Diego, CA
4/25: Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA
4/26: Yoshi’s, Oakland, CA
4/28: Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz, CA
4/29: Grass Valley Center for the Arts, Grass Valley, CA
4/30: Ner Shalom, Cotati, CA
5/03: Nectar Seattle, WA
5/04: Star Theater, Portland, OR
5/05: Wild Buffalo, Bellingham, WA
5/07: Neurolux, Boise, ID
5/09: State Room, Salt Lake City, IA
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