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

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Jeich Ould Badu & Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla

Jeich Ould Badu & Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla: Instrumental synth and lute from the Sahara desert and Sahelsounds

Jeich Ould Badu & Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla

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‘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.

from Sahelsounds:

“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.”

Sahelsounds / Jeich Ould Badu & Ahmedou Ahmed Lewla: Website Facebook Twitter SoundCloud

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Midnight Peacocks

Midnight Peacocks: Israeli stoner metal that embraces its Arabic roots

midnight peacocks

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I don’t often hear violins in stoner metal, so Midnight Peacocks quickly grabbed my attention from “Tzar Bomba” and kept it throughout their entire new LP, ‘Katastroffa,’ which is out now.

From Bandcamp bio:

“The Midnight Peacocks are:
Eitan Radoshinski: Vocals & bass
Guy Shemi: Guitar & Backing Vocals
Yoav Zohar: Drums
Yoni Silver: Violin, Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Keyboards & Piano
Hezi Shohet: Poetry”

Midnight Peacocks: Facebook

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Al Massrieen

Al Massrieen: Arabic funk via the essential Habibi Funk Records

Al Massrieen

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Al Massrieen, this gem of a band, came onto my radar when I was introduced to Habibi Funk Records, a Berlin sub-label of Jakarta Records that specializes in reissuing Arabic funk and jazz music from the ’70s and ’80s. Al Massrieen was an Egyptian band that played groovy Arabic funk from 1977 until the group’s end in 1988.

The full release, titled ‘Habibi Funk 006: Modern Music,’ will be released online April 28th.

From Habibi Funk’s SoundCloud:

“[This] was one of the first bands I learned about once I discovered the tape format. They were really popular in Egypt in the 1970s and the more of their music I found on either tapes or Arabic pirate mp3 sites, the more I was becoming a fan. Only very few bands from the region can match the band’s versatility as well as their strive for innovation. Hany Shenoda is the man behind the [band]. He is a reknown figure of the Egyptian music scene and has worked with everyone from Abdel Halim Hafez to Mohamed Mounir. Al Massrieen was his attempt to introduce his ideas of modernizing Egyptian music, heavily encouraged by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt’s only winner of the Nobel Price for literature) after discussing his ideas with him.”

Al Massrieen/ Habibi Funk: SoundCloud Facebook

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Dem Juju Poets

Dem Juju Poets: bringing life, and a few DJ tricks, to Afrofunk

dem juju poets

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Dem Juju Poets, aka David Hanke, is a breath of fresh air for anyone who likes the idea of retro-sounding Afrofunk but finds that most modern takes are too bland to remember. The German DJ has been making solid Afropunk-inspired cuts since 2008, and his new album, with a lively flow that actually makes you wanna get up and dance, will further establish his name worldwide. The debut LP will be released April 21st via Matasuna Records.

From the Bandcamp bio:

“What initially started as idea for a DJ-duo project quickly turned into a new production outlet for German producer David Hanke. He is well known for his Northern Jazz, Funk and Afrofunk productions under various monikers ever since his first release back in 2008. The most recognized surely is his Renegades Of Jazz-alias.

After starting to fully embrace the Afrofunk vibe with his 2016-released Renegades Of Jazz album ‘Moyo Wangu’ as well as two Dem Juju Poets singles in the same year it’s now about time to release ‘Liberated Thoughts’ – the longplay debut for Dem Juju Poets which is scheduled for April 2017.

Having spent an influential part of his childhood in Arusha, Tanzania and engrained the music of East Africa, his sound combines these influences with modern, more club-orientated electronic Afrofunk productions which defines the core sound of Dem Juju Poets.

With ‘Liberated Thoughts’ Hanke refines his Afrofunk vision for 2017 informed by his experience as a DJ in venues all over Europe which naturally led to a more floor functional production approach.”

Dem Juju Poets: Bandcamp Website Facebook

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