Niamey by night

The bar is called The New's. The blue and white painted walls encircle a courtyard of broken mosaic tile. The crowd pours back beer in amber bottles, men in tight fitted t-shirts and suit jackets sitting statuesque and bored or a handful losing their shit on the dancefloor. A flickering…

tales of exile

Ahmed's guitar band Amanar takes their name from the constellation Orion; by virtue of an old story, one of many about a great Tamashek warrior by the same name. As the story goes, Amanar, an grand and imposing figure, accidentally bumped into a woman milking her goats to feed her…

tahoultine, chopped and skyped

Mdou Moctar (pronounced "M"-"Doh") is from Abalak, Niger. A few years back, he traveled to Sokoto, Nigeria to record an album. A curious feature was addition of Autotune, something the studio engineer suggested. The resulting eight songs, all spaced out Autotuned Tamashek guitar (quite possibly the first time ever) were…

Moonlight in the Gold Port

Lewlewal de Podor - Jamfa I met the group Lewlewal in 2009 (previously). I had been in Nouakchott for four months and needed a break. Driving on the road to Fouta Toro, the Northern region of Senegal, the temperature increased exponentially. It was April, and once the cool comfort of…

the choice is yours

"It's called world music – music without boundaries. You take a little bit of African, America, Europe, Latin – and mix it together. That's world music," Ama explains. "We don't play world music." We're sitting outside Demba's house in Niafounke. It's a starless night, the residual clouds of the evening's…

first they built the road, then they built the town

Sahl la Guindo, Ndjarka, NIAFOUNKE Once, when the first rains began to fall on the desert, I left Timbouctou. The route I traveled, one of a handful of possibilities none more glamorous than the rest, is traversable only by desert craft, the pale horse of the landcruiser -- choking and…