Jeich Ould Badu & Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla: Instrumental synth and lute from the Sahara desert and Sahelsounds
‘Top WZN’ is another Sahelsounds collection that focuses on Mauritanian WZN (instrumental music), a sort of pop music for this West African country. Both Jeich Ould Badu and Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla are masters in their own right at the manipulated lute and the Arabic scaled pitch synth that, played together, sound oddly soothing in its freakouts and delicate tempos – you can never tell where the songs will go, which keeps you on your toes.
“The album (originally released on cassette in 2009) showcases Jeich Ould Badu and Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla, playing a signature genre of instrumental music. Known as اوزان (transliterized as “alwazan” “wezen” or “wzn”), literally translated as “rhythm,” it colloquially refers to a contemporary genre of instrumental music, defined by synthesizers, electric guitars and lutes, and electronic drum patterns. Jeich Ould Badu is from a celebrated family of griots, and learned to play music at a young age. He plays the tidnit, the traditional Hassaniya lute – modified and updated, the goat skin replaced by flattened tin, and hacked together with phaser pedals and built in pre-amps. Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla is one of the most well known keyboard musicians in Mauritania. He plays an Arabic moded synthesizer capable of the quarter tone scales adapted from the fretless strings of classical Moorish traditions.
Popular Mauritanian music is often performed publicly with large troupes of guitarists, tidnits, synthesizers, and multiple rhythm sections. But in the past decade, the influx of small recording studios and a booming cassette industry has led to artist driven productions. WZN has followed suit, and has been transformed into an established genre. The slick studio sound, warbling tidnit, and microtones of the synthesizer are an integral part of today’s musical landscape, blasting from open air music shops and taxi cabs throughout the capital.”