Tuareg Guitar

Tuareg guitar has become one of the most popular folk music in the contemporary Sahara. Originally political ballads, created in exile in Libya, today the sound has expanded to encompass everything from introspective love songs, blistering psychedelic rock, and synthesizer and drum machine. At its core, the music still relies on poetry to transmit a message, carried by the pentatonic solos of a guitar.

Browse the Sahel Sounds archive below for an extensive collection of posts, recordings, and albums about the genre.

Year of the Toyota Land Cruiser (Y.T.L.C.)

Historically, musicologists lacked the capability to record audio. Songs were transcribed either in Western musical notation or some peculiar form of transcription. Both forms suffered from inevitable selection bias as to what was or was not recorded (or able to be recorded in the confines of the transcription method, which…

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“Il y laisse de jouer.”

Another routine evening, we assemble inside Ahmed's compound of chest high mud walls, sitting on the light mats thrown down in the dusty yard. Two or three guitars are picked up and traded around, the flickering light of the fire just barely bright enough to make out the shadowy figures…

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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…

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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…

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