torodi

Torodi, the new release from Hama is now available on vinyl and digital download. Compiled from tracks collected across Niger over the past few years, the vinyl release features hand drawn artwork by well known Nigerien political caricature artist Abdoul Karim, beautifully designed and screenprinted by Corum, limited to 500:

“Hama is a multi instrumentalist and electronic synthesizer composer from the Republic of Niger. His music has enjoyed wide acclaim throughout the country through his underground releases of unlabeled digital recordings on memory cards. Creating at the convergence of disparate influences, such as North African instrumental synth, Tuareg tishumaren, 90s Nigerien Hip Hop and second wave Detroit techno, Hama composes music that is futuristic and rooted in tradition, transmitting Tuareg guitar into the 21st Century.”

You can grab the vinyl here at the shop or stream/download at bandcamp.

end of year mix

It’s been a very busy 2014. We released a handful on vinyl releases, toured three times in Europe, traveled twice across the Sahel, and filmed the first ever Tuareg language film. In honor of things coming to an end and new beginnings, here’s a little year end mix. There are a couple of highlights from the past, but also a glimpse into the next year – with the release of Mdou Moctar’s film and soundtrack, new collaborations with Mississippi of Azawad folklore, lost and found recordings of Niger 70′s orchestras, electrified live wedding recordings from Nouakchott, and sublime electro-instrumental Tuareg synth.

Thanks again for your support!

mediafire link

Tracklist:

Mdou Moctar – Ambience
Fatou Seidi Ghali – Ilghadad
Mdou Moctar – Jagwa (live in Marseille)
Etran de l’Air – Etran Hymn
Hussein – Lebtait
Hama – Instrumental Jam
Abba Gargando – Kel Tamacheq
Yasin Nana – Timbouctou No. 1
Mamman Sani Abdoulaye – Salamatu 1997
Cheb Ziram – Issafara
Mamelon – Koumba Fri Fri (Gulls Slowed Version)
Mamman Sani – Lamru (El Mahdy Jr Remix)
Leila Gobi – Menaka
Fadimoutou Wallet Inamoud – Wana L’Ancien

on the regional variation of id3 tags in the western sahel

Bus field recording, Ansongo, Mali

The first time I heard the music was (naturally) on a cellphone. It was March of 2012, and I left Gao in a rush as the Northern cities fell to the rebellion. I nervously scanned the horizon as the bus blew past abandoned police posts – managing to Zoom a field recording of the song playing on a fellow passenger’s phone.

I continued to find more versions of the piano music. After questions, interviews, and Facebook inquiries, I went to Agadez and gathered up more tracks. Eventually, I learned the identity of the musician – a certain “Japonais,” former rebellion fighter for the MNJ, and pianist. I met the family, and we discussed releasing the material on a record. I began mastering the songs. The records were in the queue, and would soon arrive.

But it wasn’t him.

Hama – Tarhanam Remix

A few months ago, I head back to Niger with a contract and envelope of money. One night we hear one of the songs playing from a nearby cellphone. When the crew stops by to investigate, they’re told a different name: “Hama”. When they report back to me, I tell them they must be mistaken. This is Japonais. Everyone in Agadez knows this. Every mp3 is tagged with his name. I’ve even met with the family, who confirmed it. But the other friends in the Niamey neighborhood are insistent. Not only is this Hama, but he lives close by here – and tomorrow we’ll go visit him.

Hama lives with his family in one of the old neighborhoods of Niamey, Plateau. It’s a calm section of central Niamey with large old concrete houses and tall trees. The Embassies were once here and Hama grew up amongst the expatriates and embassy staff. It was one of these expatriates that gave Hama his first melodica, then synthesizer. In 2005, he found a Yamaha PSR-64. It’s a distinctive sound – warbly, with quarter tones. It features drum programming, which Hama uses to create the signature rhythms on his tracks, all of but one are original compositions. He asks me to sit down, and he begins to play a sound unmistakable from the recording. When he finished he looks up – “Well? Is it me?”

Hama – Live

In 2009, he was invited to the radio to record the instrumental tracks that now circulate through the cellphone networks. While awaiting the completion of his CD, one of the sound engineers copied the songs. But when they were copied, it was with the generic filename: “NOUVEAU INSTRUI”. Hama’s name wasn’t on the file or the id3 tag, and they dispersed throughout the country with no link back to him. Being instrumental music furthermore, it was hard to make any claim to it.

They would have remain unidentifiable music, if it were not for Japonais. A well known figure in the rebellion, Japonais was in fact a Tuareg synth player – as well as a guitarist. His assassination by government troops was an injustice that still reverberates in the North today. Little by little, these unlabeled songs began to pick up the name “Japonais” – by mp3 sellers, cellphone owners, and radio djs – who assumed it was none other than their celebrated hero.

Back in Niamey, only his friends know who he is. He performs rarely and is not a professional musician, working as a driver for a wealthy expatriate businessman. He plays his synthesizer in the evening, but has lately moved into composing music on a computer – using FruityLoops. He demonstrates some of the music, playing a live session, alternatively muting and un-muting looping hi-hats and basslines. “Since I found the computer, I don’t need to look for music anymore, I can compose the songs I want to listen to.” He plays his recreations of Phil Collins and Lil Jon – where he has painstakingly created the melody with a piano VST. “If I could only plug my piano into the computer, I know I could make a lot of things…”

Hama – Tarhanam Remix (Fruityloops version)

** Hama’s full length LP “Torodi” will be released next month in a limited edition of 500 **

facebook in the rainy season

fatou seidi ghali Alamnou Akrouni, Fatou Seidi Ghali

Fatou – Song 1

Fatou Seidi Ghali is a guitarist – of note, perhaps, as the other woman guitarist in Niger (there are only two). Over a year prior, a photo was circulating on Facebook of her playing a red electric guitar in a festival. The photo was liked, and shared. Later, I learned that Ahmoudou from Mdou’s group had taken the photo and posted it. Fatou was a cousin from his hometown.

We travel to Ilaghadad, a small village 40 kilometers outside of Abalak. It’s the bush, but the village boasts a number of small houses and a school. There are thousands of goats. Tall, wispy grasses cover the ground. There are seasonal water holes everywhere, and at the end of the rainy season, big white egrets weigh down the tree limbs. Flowers bloom on lily pads. Camels splash through the mud. Fatou’s family lives a few kilometers from the village, about an hour on foot. We take motorbikes.

Fatou – Song 2

Fatou has played guitar for only about four years. She learned to play alongside her brother. With her two sisters, Fatou is known in Ilaghadad known more for her singing tende, the stretched water drum fabricated from a mortar, played in weddings and festivals. Even some of the songs are the same, played here on a guitar.

We sit under some trees, back from the house and away from the kids from the village that have come out en masse to watch the recording. In the quiet of the late afternoon, Fatou sings softly but distinctly. She plays the guitar, accompanied by her sisters and brother and a chorus of crickets announcing the end of the rainy season.