Three at a time please.

The guitar soiree is the quintessential to the modern Tamashek. At least a few times in a week a festival will be organized -- be it a marriage, a baptism, or simply a concert. As the first stars appear in the sky, the guitar can be heard wafting over the…

Home taping is killing music

On a near moonless night, the bus rumbles to a halt. The passengers all debark along the side of the road -- a vast clear plain clouded in by the shadows of the Dogon cliffs -- somewhere on the national highway between Douentza and Hombori. As all the weary passengers…

Festival Roundup

It's the end of the year. Festival time! For some odd reason, the Sahara likes to cram its festivals on top of one another, back to back, at the coldest time of the year. Make sure you bring a warm coat and mittens. Many of the festivals have important cultural…

That ain’t workin’, that’s the way you do it…

The Tuaregs consist of a variety of tribes, stretching across the center of the Saharan desert, East of Mauritania, across Mali, Algeria, Niger, Libya. In the past, the Western association was with "blue men" in the desert, the fierce resistance to colonization, the romantic myth of the desert nomad. Today…

Sonrai sound

En route to Timbouctou, I stop over in Goundam, a nondescript village of the Niger Delta. As I travel with guitar, a young man stops me and asks if he can have a look in the case. "Moi, aussi, je suis un artiste..." His name is Babah Dire (from the…

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Griots.

While Tuareg rock (Desert Blues, i.e. Tinariwen) is the most known form of Tamashek music abroad, traditional guitar still has a strong place in the North. The traditional guitar is found throughout West Africa, for Peuls, Sonrai, Maures, Tuareg, Sarakoles - respectively named Hodou, Koubour, Tidinit, Teherdent or Hardine (and…