Monthly Archives: October 2010

tracklist from music from saharan cellphones

This little cassette of music (“Music from Saharan Cellphones”) collected from cellphones has been in internet circulation lately (update — and the Guardian UK). Pitchfork did a nice write-up on the phenomena of “musical scarcity”, Rupture at Mudd Up! has given it some blog/radio play, and Portland’s own Gulls put together this remix of one of the tracks:

Niger Autotune (Emsitka) — Gulls Edit

Just to clarify, the music was not collected from “discarded” or “abandoned” cellular phones as has been reported. It’s sort of funny, the notion that one could find memory cards or cellphones lying around in the trash. No, although an interesting story, the music was simply copied. In the effort of cultural exchange, I traded for a few Townes Van Zandt albums; we’ll see if they’ve survived next time I’m back in Kidal.

The somewhat ambiguous tracklist was a result of ID3 tags and guesswork. First world internet access and Facebook feedback have helped to clarify a few things, and here’s the updated tracklist (more details as they come available):

side A:

01 – Group Anmattaf – Tinariwen (Tamaransett, Algeria)
02 – Hasso Akotey – Amidinine (Niger – myspace)
03 – Mdou Moctar – Tahoultine (Niger/Nigeria)
04 – Koudede – Souveniram (Niger – myspace)
05 – Hamdawa – Salaouat Nabina (Meknes, Morocco – awesometapes)
06 – Cheb Hamza and Cheba Wasila (Morocco)

side B:

01 – Kaba Blon – Moribayassa (Bamako, Mali)
02 – ?
03 – Yeli Fuzzo – Abande (Bamako, Mali – facebook)
04 – ?
05 – Joskar and Flamzy – Faroter (Ivory Coast)
06 – Aminata Wassidje – Tamala (Dire, Mali)
07 – Papito feat. Iba One – Yereyira (Bamako, Mali)

download here via ghostcapital

electric relaxation

Jakwar (or Jagwar) is a style created by Jheich Ould Sedoum Ould Abba (arabic:ÃÌêÔ èäÏ ÓÏèå èäÏ), a tidnit player from Atar in Northern Mauritania.

Jheich Ould Abba cassette (via VOA)

Jheich played in the 1970’s, an interesting moment in Mauritanian history. The country had just over a decade of independence and was experiencing post colonial growing pains, trying to stake itself a place between sub-Saharan Africa and the Maghrebian Arab world, between the modernization of the capital at Nouakchott and the traditional nomads that accounted for the majority of the population. Musically, the measured innovation created some interesting phenomena (which I’ll be exploring in subsequent posts), like this electrification of the tidnit. The experiment with democracy came to an end in 1978 — with a coup d’etat following an unsuccessful war. Incidentally, Jakwar itself takes its name from this war, and the SEPECAT Jaguar, a French fighter plane that blasted over the nomad camps, probably responsible for a lot of terror/awe/confusion.

Jakwa is dance music. Although I was often told in Mauritania something about juggling tea glasses, I never saw it until this clip (juggling starts around 3:32)

(Jheich Ould Abba on tidnit. Feyti Min Ahaymeda dancing and Zadya playing drums)

With the introduction of the guitar to the Sahara, the Jakwa style naturally was adapted and expanded across the desert, and into Mali (and perhaps further?). The music is popular amongst the Tuareg, although there are few musicians who know how to play it — the majority being the typical ishumar sound. Although last years Festival du Chameau even had one Jakwa musician amongst all the Tuareg guitar: a foreign born guitarist name Badi who lives in Aguelhoc.

Stepping on stage clad in the typical blue Mauritania draa and flanked by a handful of women in black bazzin, Badi has a thin mustache and glasses. He stands there stiffly, while his fingers dance over the modified fretted guitar. The first two tracks are typical jakwa sound:

Badi Jakwa 1
Badi Jakwa 2

For his third track, Badi doesn’t sing as much as shouts into the microphone and unleashes force worthy of the fighter jets strafing Polisario columns.

Badi Monster Track

Further Reading: One of the most prolific pieces on Mauritanian music comes from Matthew LaVoie at Voice of America who did some fantastic posts awhile back.

Part 1

Part 2

The man in black.


An enigmatic figure materializes one day in Kidal. He’s dressed all in black and wears a tall cap of dreadlocks, lugging his baggage and a guitar case. After a few days off wandering through town, he begins to sing in the street, accompanied by an old broken steel guitar.

Later that week, I have the chance to meet him in the market. He’s squatting in an old police checkpoint and has come here to busk — unheard of in this little desert town. He tells me his name is “Le marchand du Soleil” — the merchant of the sun, and though he never reveals his origin, he plays beautiful songs that sound southern, suggesting Burkina or Cote D’Ivoire with that major scale, double octave, frenetic solo — certainly more Palm Wine than Desert Tea.

Le marchand is regarded as “le fou” — the fool, or the crazy — and as he plays in the market, his attitude and songs are bizarre, subject to mocking laughter or disapproving commentary. One night, I find him on the corner of the main drag of town. He’s playing in the dark, but he’s surrounding by a few town kids. And they’re listening attentively, entranced by the new sound. When he’s finished, they ask him to play “that one song, Laila” — to which, he obliges. And already knowing the words, they sing along.


Le marchand du soleil – Non frappe pas les innocentes

Le marchand du soleil – Laila

Talking about his origin

On a somewhat related note, Jonathan Dueck recently sent me a mix of some of the sounds he recorded in Burkina Faso a few years ago that was posted on Asthmatic Kitty website. They certainly bear more of an affinity to the wandering minstrel than the typical desert sounds. Perhaps he’s also to be found amongst these recordings?

FASOCAST – Sounds from Burkina Faso, West Africa