Lost links & Re-ups

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Slinging tuneage like some fried or otherwise soused short-order cook

21 May 2013

Niger







Here I get a chance to feature some of my personal favorite music so far, so if I’ve ranted on too much, just skip the words & dig right into the music. I don’t think you will be disappointed. But if you are concerned with the plight of indigenous people around the world, read on, I don’t think you be disappointed either. There is an incredible history that has progressed from 60s Ali Farka Touré, the father of desert blues, to 70s Tinariwen Tuareg guitar rock, to 90s & onward to today’s Tuareg Guitar Revolution music…the fight of an original people for freedom in their own homelands against the capitalist greed for Uranium profits & ethnic supremacy.

Niger is a landlocked country in West Africa bordered by Mali, Algeria, Libya, Chad & Nigeria. Niger has a very rich cultural heritage. It sits at the desert crossroads between the Berber & Arab cultures of the North & the many sub-Saharan cultures of the South. In Niger there are eleven different ethnic groups most of whom are farmers or pastoralists, some sedentary & some nomadic. Amongst theses are the Tuareg. They move with their camels, long-horned cattle, sheep, goats, & donkeys seeking pastures along the Sahelian savannah at the fringes of the South Sahara.

The Tuaregs are a Berber ethnic group, whose immense homeland covers parts of Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, & Libya. The Tuareg people of Northern Africa operated the much-coveted trans-Saharan caravan trade for centuries. Nomadic pastoralists & broadsword-wielding raiders, the fiercely independent people have resisted European hegemony since Europe began colonizing Africa. The latest revolt was in the early 1990s against the governments of Mali & Niger over the Tuareg’s desire for self-governance of their traditional homeland. The uprising introduced a new form of rebellion thanks to the initiation of the electric guitar into Tuareg culture: political commentary relayed via song.

Cassettes of such music carrying messages through Libyan Refugee camps where the freedom fighters & their families had gone for safety, referred to as the ‘Tuareg Guitar Revolution’, spread quickly across the Tuareg society (whose population is well past the million mark). Unsurprisingly the music was banned by the opposing governments. The 1995 Peace Pact Accord between the governments of Mali & Niger with the Rebels may have diminished the violence, but the electric guitar & the political song’s influence on the culture would not go away.


Another of the pastoralist ethnic groups is the Wodaabe. In Niger the Wodaabe & the Tuareg live side by side on the desert’s fringes sharing pastures & water sources. They try to work together to be strong, to give their cultures a future in this changing world. The music of the two tribes is very different. However, that all changed in 2004. Etran Finatawa was formed as a band at the time of the 2004 Festival in the Desert near Timbuctou. The literal meaning of their name is ‘the stars of tradition’. They are the first group ever to use the songs & music of the Wodaabe in a modern context. They began as a group of ten musicians, both Tuareg & Wodaabe, who wanted to unite these two nomadic cultures as a symbol of peace & reconciliation. The way Etran Finatawa combined these two musical traditions has produced a powerful & hypnotic sound, a new musical style of Nomad Blues.


In this interchange of modern & traditional styles, handclapping & rich percussion often lead the songs. This is an invitation to dance, while the guitar work of Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla (also bass & rhythm guitar) & Ghalitane Khamindoune gives a special blues groove to the music. These melodies, rhythms, & vocals evoke a haunting image of the Sahel arid desert. The rich heady blend of the particular stylings of the Wodaabe singers Bagui Bouga, Mamane Tankari, & Bammo Agonla, the strong singing voices of the Anivolla, Khamindoune, & Jamil, the polyrhythmic tende drumming of Zaig Ag Abdoul Jamil, & the polyphonic chorus of the whole band is highly innovative, unique & richly rewarding.


Etran Finatawa – Desert Crossroads, Riverboat Records TUGCD 1048, 2008.
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Tracklist –

Saghmar N Nanna         
Kel Tamascheck
Iguefan
Tea Ceremony I
Jama’aare
Tekana
Ganyo Maada
Soto
Asistan
Bagui’s Soundscape
Gaynaako
Alghalem Taxat
Tea Ceremony II
Amidinine
Naanaaye
Tea Ceremony III

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Although the most famous of the Tuareg Guitar Revolution bands is Tinariwen, Group Inerane make up in musical ability anything that might be lacking in international following. Helmed by the enigmatic guitar player Bibi Ahmed, Group Inerane encompasses the most exciting aspects of the Tuareg guitar style. Ahmed plays elliptical bluesy riffs over minimalist rhythmic patterns while a chorus of chanting voices add to the polyphony. On the first volume of Guitars of Agadez, Adi Mohammed traded amazing riffs with Bibi. Adi Mohammed was shot & killed during the latest round of skirmishes between the Tuareg of the Agadez region & the government of Niger, a conflict rooted in the struggle for a Tuareg independence but deeply linked to the profitable uranium industry which dominates the northern half of this poor nation. In Mohammed's stead is the older Koudede Maman, who represented a link between Tinariwen, which began in the late 70s, & younger Tuareg guitarists like Ahmed. In October 2012 Koudede Manan died in an accident while returning from a gig in Burkina Faso. 


The idiosyncratic tone of the guitars with buzzing amplifiers on Guitars from Agadez takes on a new form of Sahel psychedelia. One can hear amplified roots rock & blues elements in the music, but it doesn’t sound influenced by American or European counterparts. It sounds as secluded as its geographic homeland, though surprisingly very accessible. Like the Tuareg people themselves, the music is resilient & commanding, making for a continuously exciting listen.

On Guitars from Agadez vol. 3, Group Inerane are: Koudede Manan – vocals; Bibi Ahmed – vocals & guitar; Abdulai Sidi Mohamed – bass; & Mohamed Atchinguel - drums.

Group Inerane – Guitars from Agadez vol. 3, Sublime Frequencies SF061, 2010.
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Side A –
Telalit
Alemin
Tamidit in Aicha
Itrara

Side B –
Tchigefen
Ikabkaban
Golf
Medan
Deran Deran



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As with Tinariwen & Group Inerane, the electric guitar is the most important instrument with Toumast. Coupled with guitarist Moussa Ag Keyna’s playing is his songwriting & rebel attitude. Toumast’s music personifies everything that the Tuareg Guitar Revolution & the Taureg struggle for self-reliance represents. Ag Keyna is a former Tuareg freedom fighter. Clashes between Tuareg freedom fighters & Mali’s /Niger’s military resulted in thousands of casualties. Ag Keyna himself was seriously wounded in 1993. He was taken to France to recuperate. There he continued his fight through music. He got together with his niece, percussionist, & haunting vocalist Aminatou Goumar & the French multi-instrumentalist/ producer Dan Levy who whilst not on the cover can be seen as the third member of Toumast (which means ‘our identity’ or ‘our people’ in Tuareg Tamasheq).

Call it desert blues or Tuareg rock’n’roll, it’s the hypnotic, addictive groove which makes it so easily appealing. While listening to "Maraou Oran", keep in mind that Ag Keyna wrote this when he learned that 12 of his fellow freedom fighters had been assassinated. This music is vital on many different levels.

 Toumast – Ishumar (Tuareg Music of Resistance), Real World Records 50999, 2007. 
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Tracklist –

Ikalane Walegh (These Countries that are not Mine)
Tallyatidagh (That Girl)
Innulamane (The Falcon)
Ammilana (O My God, O My Soul)
Ezeref (The Camel)
Dounia (Life)
Maraou Oran (For Twelve Moons)
Kik Ayittma (Hey, My Brothers!)
Amidinine (O My Friend)

Enjoy,



8 comments:

  1. Etran Finitawa
    eF0qLTswX7SKpYh6_M6bSjuqENxs9h8qxKl5O4M1Kng
    Group Inerane
    elY_PHxJtB22Jc9Bgyw6TRDPZzB3xujQ71YP2v7LmOw
    Toumast
    Nn1k0i2IKdiwxul9UOALQX_nsewLqsCOlxMXUDxlVQ4

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yep. Hard to beat these. But I must admit seeing Tinariwen at a posh dinner theatre in Seattle on a rainy winter night was one of the most...um...incorrect but fabulous experiences.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have never & will never pass up the chance to see Tinariwen, no matter how un-P.C. it might be. The spirituality of the experience cancels any bad karma. Thanks for this & the props. For a Honky like myself, there is just something about the Tuareg guitar sound that just enthralls me. I can imagine sitting around in the windblock of an oued by an oasis at night listening to electric guitars played through battery-powered practice amps wafting across the savannah.

      Have you ever seen or know of the film TOUMAST : GUITARS AND KALASHNIKOVS directed by Dominique Margot?

      Delete
  3. Do you know this page?

    http://musiques-afrique.com/frames/framusic.html

    It might help you if you have not completed your African lists

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I need all the help I can get.

      Delete
  4. While we are sharing useful websites.

    http://www.tamasheq.net/

    ReplyDelete
  5. and for another countryless people...
    http://en.kurdland.com/download.asp

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, we can all use more enlightening.

      Delete