electric relaxation

Jakwar (or Jagwar) is a style created by Jheich Ould Sedoum Ould Abba (arabic:أجيش ولد سدوم ولد), 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

3 thoughts on “electric relaxation

  1. Andy Morgan

    Thanks for this Chris. Jakwa sounds like a v interesting aspect of Mauritanian music that needs a closer look. But listening to the Badi track, I was reminded more of the teherdent griots of Gao than anything else. Am I way of the mark? Have you come across the new Takamba Super 11 de Gao CD project. Super 11 were THE hit of the Festival in the Desert 2003. They were languishing forgotten until last year when a Dutch dj / producer called Horst Timmers aja DJ MPS Monkey Pilot recorded them. He’s releasing a CD called ‘Future Takamba’ v. soon. You can get a taste of it at http://www.futuretakamba.net/
    Cheers, Andy.

  2. sahelsou Post author

    It’s possible that Badi has a close affinity to that style — but then again, the thardint is pretty close to the tidnit in Mauritania. And thanks for the takamba music. It’s nice to see it getting its due!

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