Review: Tal National and modern high-octane rock from Africa

Sidi Touré, Toubalbero | 1/2
BKO, Mali Foli Coura | 1/2
Tal National, Tantabara | ??
Imarhan, Temet | ??

With American rock bands looking for avant-garde EDM and elsewhere for a rejuvenation of the genre, African electric guitars and traditional instruments once again yawn, scream and crack with new intensity after some kind of interruption. of the kind. There, the romantic scenario of chop-picking at the crossroads has been replaced by the vigorous international and inter-ethnic cultural trade underway in Mali, Niger and Algeria. Amid the myriad variations of African music, rock resurfaces.

Songwriter and guitarist Sidi Toure lives in Bamako, the capital of Mali, but he grew up in Gao, located between the Niger River and the Sahara Desert, a few hundred kilometers east of Timbuktu. Coming from a noble Songhaï lineage, Touré lived among the Bozos, Bambaras, Peuls and members of the renowned Tuareg nomads “desert blues”. The latter may or may not have inspired his new flashy and urgent Toubalbero, which electrifies the acoustic folk tones dominating his four previous albums: Djadjé Traoré adds an overworked electric guitar alongside the amplified buzz of Urmane “Papou” Dagnon ngoni (a lute covered with goatskin) and rocking drummer Mamadou “Mandou” Koné. Sidi Touré challenged his family to become a sort of griot without good faith. Now it’s something even worse: a griot rocker. And the distortion is the new authenticity.

Toubalbero is a goa term for a traditional large drum that brings a community together, and Touré extends this sense of oversized community enchantment in songs like “Heyyeya,” which reflects a wedding day – “nothing but happiness, nothing but joy “- more and more frenzied skein of polyrhythmic pleasure. guitars and ngoni swap solos and Touré screams ecstatically during “Tchirey”, a fast-tempo seven-minute emergency blast having to do with a god of thunder. Voodoo is part of the Songhai spiritual tradition, and Touré’s group often rings out somewhere on the outskirts of possession.

BKO, on the other hand, pour the ears of an insider. The innovative and loud quintet that gets a loud Congotronics buzz from a pair of ngonis – both the jeli ngoni played by griots and the greatest donso ngoni (or “hunter’s harp”) alongside percussionists on djembe and dunun drums, traps, and the serrated metal tube and scraper called a caragnan. BKO (Bamako airport code) debuts in 2014 Bamako today with immensely rougher and harder Mali Foli Coura, or “new sound from Mali”.

Mali Foli Coura is really new, synthesizing griot and donso elements in songs like the afrobeat “Mali Liberela”, which warns the population not to become complacent now that the jihadists no longer terrorize northern Mali on a regular basis. Low-end polyrhythmic dance beats accompany the lyrics of “Dirty Donso” on the spiritually charged komo mask, while wah-wah-ing ngonis drive “Strange Koreduga”, a traditional dance performed by jesters and clowns. Why Mali Foli Coura ends with the cornball song “Mon Amour”, that’s to be guessed. Every arena act deserves a ballad, of course, and BKO wins theirs by highlighting the Afro in afro-punk.

from Niger National Tal does not hide its allegiances, declaring itself “high energy rock & roll West Africa” ​​directly on its web page. Formed in 2000 by guitarist and (at least part-time) municipal judge Hamadal “Almeida” Moumine, the country’s most popular group concocts a sound whirlwind of diverse cultural ingredients. Two hundred and thirty-seven miles east of Gao, the capital of Niger is also multilingual, and its Fulani, Hausa, Songhai and Tuareg communities are all reflected in Tal National’s 13-member pool. (The collective approach is particularly useful when the six-member group is to play two concerts at the same time.)

Tal National are the math-rock mavens of West Africa. Nigerian singer-rapper Zara Moussa delivers the opening verse of the opening title track of Tantabara, their fourth album since 2009, before the whole band jumped for joy and soared relentlessly through a complex 12/8 Hausa groove. Recorded in a makeshift Niamey studio by Jamie Carter, a Chicago producer who was more professionally familiar with Joan of Arc and Chance the Rapper when he produced their debut album in 2009, Tantabara has a green, scruffy indie-rock vibe reminiscent of the gorgeous afrojazz punks of Brooklyn Sunwatchers or Tel Aviv-born Brooklyn guitarist Yonatan Gat, who rocks aggressively on Tal’s “Entente”.

“We are a people living in mountains without water,” sings one of the seven singers who provide the main voices on Tantabara‘s eight titles, this time in the Tamashek language of the Tuareg people. “We are a people who live in these places not because there is gold or dollars.” Probably the fastest, the dirtiest sleepTrack-style recorded to date, “Akokas” offers anything but a break.

In their black leather jackets and torn Lévis, the members of the Tuareg band Imarhan Of course see like rockers in the photos. Imarhan (meaning ‘those who care about me’) are the second generation of sleep guitarists, as the deeply groovey style is called, the so-called “children of Tinariwen”. The connection is strong. Singer and guitarist Imarhan Iyad Moussa Ben Abderahmane replaced Ibrahim Ag Alhabib for a few years when the founder of Tinariwen needed some family time, and Tinariwen bassist Eyadou Ag Leche produced his second album, Temet.

Hard but hot, Temet contains claps, female vocal responders, grain mortar and goat skin tight percussion of Tuareg music, but with more knotty guitars and no uttering exclamations. “All pleasure ends in death; you have to know it, ”Ibrahim sings with stone in“ Tamudre ”(“ Living ”), a rock-noir climax that turns into a dark Keith Richards solo before fading away with several seconds of amp buzzing. Based in Tamarasset in Algeria, the Imarhan are city dwellers who spice up sleepIt’s endlessly grooving with disco, funk and reggae as needed. “You have to function in today’s world and use the Internet and stuff,” Ibrahim said. The Guardian‘s Andy Morgan, “but you must not let go of the fundamentals, of your to shiver [Tamasheq for dignity and hospitality] – it’s essential. They’re still more Hooker than Hendrix, but you can feel them pushing deeper into the darkness on the outskirts of town, the wilderness, anywhere.

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