Mdou Moctar

Mdou Moctar: Niger guitarist soundtracks a Tuareg Purple Rain

Mdou Moctar

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Our love of Tuareg guitars is pretty obvious, so of course I have to write about Niger’s Mdou Moctar. Also, I recently (two years late) started listening to the original soundtrack for Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, a Tuareg film reimaging Prince’s Purple Rain in the Saharan Desert. This explains why the album cover looks so familiar and why I’m drawn to this record.

The album was produced by Christopher Kirkley, the man behind the sahelsounds project we often cover here.

Moctar kicks off his US tour next month and will be in New York in September and October. Full dates here.

From Bandcamp:

“Rocking soundtrack recording from “Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red in it,” a revolutionary story of guitars, motorcycles, cellphones – and the music of a new generation. Original compositions from Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar from the film about his rise to fame in the city of Agadez. From the raucous heavy psychedelic to the beautiful pentatonic sublime. Includes original compositions and reverb heavy intermissions film score.”

Mdou Moctar: Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Class Suicide

Class Suicide: Mid-00’s Kenyan hardcore punk

Class Suicide

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Though not unheard of, established African punk and metal scenes are not well known outside the continent. If you’re going to start anywhere, start with Nairobi’s Class Suicide, a mid-00’s hardcore punk band often credited to be one of the first hardcore bands in Eastern Africa. Debut album Storm The Gates doesn’t sound pretty, but it does everything a punk record should do and is compelling in how it engages and surprises.

Read more about the history of Nairobi’s fascinating punk and metal scene via OkayAfrica.

From Bandcamp:

“Class Suicide was a band that brought the heavy metal and punk rock sounds of Nairobi together for 2 brief chaotic years. A politically driven bunch of crusty fellows from far away en Afrique (Nairobi, Kenya) Croe (guitars & vox) and Gearz (Bass), both formerly of the punk rock band Impish, joined forces with Adam (vox) and Kwame (percussion) who had been playing in heavy metal cover bands in late 2003. Croe had a tape in his car containing songs from: W.B.T.D., Tragedy and Catharsis. The band found common ground in the sounds and style of crust and within 2 weeks already written a handful of songs and performed live. The sound is of deep guttural vocals and violent tones and rhythm. This is balanced by melodies and rhythm both confident and delicate. The band has forged these qualities together with their live energy on their debut release ‘Storm The Gates’ originally released in December 2005 on CD in Kenya.”

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Shina Williams and His African Percussionists

Shina Williams and His African Percussionists: Nigerian afro-disco at its finest

Shina Williams and His African Percussionists

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Disappointed by the new Arcade Fire album? Don’t despair! Don’t give up on disco! Listen to this killer Shina Williams and His African Percussionists track, the pinnacle of late ’70s Nigerian afro-disco. The song is re-released via Strut, a UK reissues label specializing in soul, funk, world sounds, disco, post-punk, and industrial music.

From Bandcamp:

“Strut present a brand new 12′ reissue of Shina Williams’ monster Nigerian disco anthem ‘Agboju Logun’, pairing the rare original album version (originally released on Phonodisk Nigeria) with the more sparse 12′ remix which surfaced later internationally on Earthworks. This is the third release on STRUT’S new Original Masters Series.”

Shina Williams and His African Percussionists: Facebook Twitter SoundCloud Website

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Sufyvn

Sufyvn: old school Nubian Sudanese percussion and grooves

sufyvn

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I get the same feeling from listening to Sufyvn that I do listening to Tame Impala – a sort of otherworldliness that I can best describe as an ancient psychedelic sound. The Sudanese Beatsmith has been consistently releasing excellent music for the past couple of years, including his latest release, the Ascension EP, out now.

From Bandcamp:

“The second installment of a four-part series. Compositions inspired by Nubian Sudanese percussion salvaged from old cassette tapes in Sufyvn’s hometown of Khartoum…Concept, arrangement, and cover artwork by Sufyvn.”

Sufyvn: SoundCloud Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Kalahari Surfers

Kalahari Surfers: dub rhythms meets South African punk commentary

Kalahari Surfers

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Kalahari Surfers have been making political and satire music in South Africa since the ’80s, with composer and producer Warrick Sony leading the group for all this time. The grooves on all the tracks sneak up on you, using well-placed repetition and sound recordings. The mixture of dub rhythms and punk commentary makes this an excellent DIY South African group.

From Bandcamp:

“This was commissioned by Microdot Records for their Africa in Trance series – After working on the documentary ” Ochre and Water ” director Craig Matthew gave me permission to use some of the sound recorded during that period. These were chants of the Himba people of Northern Namibia. For further information see the impressive DOXA website: www.doxa.co.za”

Kalahari Surfers: Facebook SoundCloud

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Beating Heart

Beating Heart: remixes of African field recordings for a good cause

beating heart

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I’ve been listening to a lot of Beating Hearts lately, specifically its debut release from last year that includes remixes of old Malawi field recordings. This month, the collective released its South Africa compilation, and I’m excited to see what countries the albums cover from here.

Learn more about the organization here.

From Bandcamp:

“[We are] a collective of artists and enthusiasts who believe in the power of music to create a world without borders. Born in the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016, the project sprung from a vision to bring the world’s largest archive of African field recordings into the present day. For this album, [we] inspired some of today’s hottest producers to build new compositions using original field recordings made in Malawi in the 1950s…Moving nation by nation, each release from the collective raises monies for the communities that created the original music.”

Beating Heart: Website SoundCloud Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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ShellacHead

ShellacHead: dedicated to exploring world music from the 78 rpm era

ShellacHead

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ShellacHead is an Oakland-based label that reissues world music via 45s and 78s from Albania, the Persian Gulf, Sardinia, and more. Learn more here. The label’s 2015 The Lost 45s of Sudan collection is especially good.

From Bandcamp:

“[This] world music blog dedicated to 78 and 45 rpm records, is happy to present this compilation of incredibly rare tracks from Sudan’s “Golden Age” of recording, the 1960s-70s. A hypnotic blend of traditional Sudanese sounds with influences from abroad, these legendary artists thrived during this brief period until authoritarian Islamists brought the Golden Age to an abrupt end in the 1980s.”

ShellacHead: Website Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Noura Mint Seymali

Noura Mint Seymali: Mauritania’s great psych blues artistnoura mint seymali

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I’ve only recently discovered the incredible music of Noura Mint Seymali, whom Vice Noisey rightfully called the Mauritanian psych blues artist you need to know about. All of Seymali’s albums are great, especially last year’s fast-paced Arbina, which features some of the best riffs you’ll ever hear on any instrument from any musician in the world.

From Bandcamp:

“Arbina is Noura Mint Seymali’s second international release. Delving deeper into the wellspring of Moorish roots, as is after all the tried and true way of the griot, the album strengthens her core sound, applying a cohesive aesthetic approach to the reinterpretation of Moorish tradition in contemporary context.

…Supported by guitarist, husband and fellow griot, Jeiche Ould Chighaly, Seymali’s tempestuous voice is answered with electrified counterpoint, his quarter-tone rich guitar phraseology flashing out lightning bolt ideas. Heir to the same music culture as Noura, Jeiche intimates the tidinit’s (Moorish lute) leading role under the wedding khaima with the gusto of a rock guitar hero. Bassist Ousmane Touré, who has innovated a singular style of Moorish low-end groove over the course of many years, can be heard on this album with greater force and vigor than ever before. Drummer/producer Matthew Tinari drives the ensemble forward with the agility and precision need to make the beats cut.

Many of the songs on Arbina call out to the divine, asking for grace and protection. “Arbina” is a name for God. The album carries a message about reaching beyond oneself to an infinite spiritual source, while learning to take the finite human actions to necessary to affect reality on earth. The concept of sëbeu, or that which a human can do to take positive action on their destiny, is animated throughout. While final outcomes rest in the hands of the creator, the duty to use one’s capacities as a human to work towards our hopes and highest intentions roots us in life and relationship to God. The title track ‘Arbina’ applies this concept to specifically empower women in their decisions about preventative healthcare. It advocates for the concrete task of early screening to prevent breast and uterine cancer, sickness that claimed Noura’s own mother at a premature age, while offering an appeal to the ultimate benevolence of God. “Ghizlane” invokes the concept through metaphor, describing the elusive nature of our dreams and the innate obligation to follow. “Richa” reflects of the power of music as a vehicle.”

Noura Mint Seymali: Website SoundCloud Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Afous D’Afous

Afous D’Afous: Because there’s more to Tuareg rock than Tinariwen

Afous D'Afous

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The latest Sahelsounds release is a collection of songs by Tuareg rock band Afous D’Afous, one of the Sahara’s best guitar bands and a leading group of what we know as “desert blues” in the West. Based in Tamanrasset in southern Algeria, Afous D’Afous’ music is more upbeat and pop-sounding compared to the serious and heady grooves of Tinariwen, who are probably the most famous Tuareg rock group outside Africa.

From Bandcamp:

“In the past decade, there has been an explosion of ethnically Tuareg rock bands on the world music stage. Built around the electric guitar, the genre ranges from stripped down minimalist nostalgia filled ballads to distortion heavy tracks for dancing. Known collectively in the West as “desert blues” for its pentatonic scales and finger styles that recall Americana, in the Sahara it’s simply known as “guitar.” The style has emerged as contemporary pop music back home and today there are hundreds of bands, playing locally in weddings and public celebrations. The effect of the world music industry is not lost on the Sahara however, and the Western music market still maintains dominance over the Tuareg guitar scene. For the majority of Tuareg “guitar” bands, success still comes via the West. Artists travel abroad to record albums, and there are no shortage of indie-rock heavyweights anxious to jump into the role of producer.

An exception to the rule is Kader Tarhanine’s group “Afous D’Afous.” This six person rock outfit from Tamanrasset in southern Algeria is by all accounts unknown in world music circles. However, at home in the Tuareg community, they are without a doubt the most celebrated, famous, and in demand group, second only to Tinariwen. Kader Tarhanine rose to popularity in 2010, with his recording of a song “Tarhanine Tegla” (My Love is Gone). The track, a low-fi love ballad, recorded with a crunchy electric guitar over a pacing drum machine, went on to become an anthem throughout the diaspora (earning Kader the nickname “Kader Tarhanine”). In 2015, Kader formed his group “Afous D’Afous” and traveled to Algiers to record the full length debut “Tenere.” The 9 track album was released on CD in a limited run in-country, accompanied by a huge press rollout. The band appeared on Algerian national television, quickly becoming a country favorite and representative of the Tuareg ethnic minority. The album quickly disseminated throughout the diaspora, traded on cellphones in the conflicted Azawad, beamed through private WhatsApp pirate networks, and soundtracking smuggler’s routes, blasting from Land Cruisers at high speeds through the border zones of the open desert.

“Tenere” is a departure from the rest of the contemporary Tuareg rock albums. Of the myriad of Tuareg releases that have caught the ear of the West, only a tiny few are produced at home, sans Western producers. “Tenere” offers some of the most complex compositions in the genre to date, tightly arranged and polished. There is something sonically throwback, though Afous D’Afous crawled out of 70s rock studio album. It is long cited that Tuareg rock styles are largely inspired from heavyweights Dire Straits. This may be the most true to form rock album to date, and there is certainly a few riffs that recall Mark Knopfler. The electric guitar, front and center, drives the tracks with uptempo rhythms, all led by the soulful voice of Kader, measured and balanced with the chorus call and response. In addition to this classic rock aesthetic, the production adds some unlikely elements, reflective of contemporary globalism – layering pitch bending North African synthesizer, reverb saturated dub, and even Indian tabla and sitar!

While Tuareg guitar has become a commodity in the world music industry, Afous D’Afous has continued to in relative obscurity, all while remaining one of the most popular guitar outfits amongst Tuareg fans. They tour constantly throughout the Sahara to sold out crowds in Bamako, Niamey, and Agadez. They have yet to tour abroad. The irony is not lost on the band, and we’re excited for the opportunity to partner with them to correct this glaring oversight.

The remastered Sahel Sounds release of “Tenere” pulls together the complete recordings from their debut album, available for the first time outside of the diaspora. The vinyl edition of 1000 features old school 3-color offset printed jackets.”

Afous D’Afous: Website Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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