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.”
Boomarm Nation: Portland label releases experimental global sound system music
Boomarm Nation is a Portland, OR-based label that releases experimental sound system music from around the world on vinyl, cassette, and digital. A recent highlight for me is the fuzzy, furious remix of Mali tehardent musician Aghali Ag Amoumine off January’s ‘Family Album 2017’ compilation.
“Blessings to all the people of the world. May we unite aside our differences and together find peace and strength amongst the tyrants. 2017 – We ready.”
This is Kologo Power: the kologo lute and the sound of Northern Ghana
‘This is Kologo Power!,’ another winning compilation from sahelsounds, takes us to Bolgatanga, Ghana. Here the instrument of choice is the kologo, a type of lute from Northern Ghana that’s most popular in Bolgatanga. The instrument is small – two strings played on a thin neck – yet it holds a sort of tension that’s capable of a fierceness and blueness comparable to the banjo.
You can read more about the album via sahelsounds – the compilation still holds up almost a year after its release.
From the Bandcamp bio:
“A BOLGATANGA GHANA COMPILATION’. This compilation is an African initiative. King Ayisoba once told Makkum Records: ‘I want to make the world love kologo music like Bob Marley made the world love reggae music.’ Most of the tracks on this album were recorded in studios in Ghana. Some are sung in Frafra, others in pidgin English. Some are with a live band and some feature just solo kologo and voice. But all the songs represent a force and unveil a very strong musical power. The connection between kologo music and (delta) blues has been made more than once and that resemblance is not written on ice; the personal and the social messages, the strong rhythms, the push that this instrument -with only two strings spanned over a goatskin on a calabash- can give to people to make sure they don’t ignore the dance floor, all that makes it worth the effort of putting together at least one kologo compilation.”