Tag Archives: Tallawit Timbouctou

Tallawit Timbouctou – Hali Diallo

takamba

In 1989, Aghaly and his brother Mousa left their home. A small village called Ewit, it sits just outside of Timbouctou, not far from where the barge shelters cars across the river. Their family are forgerons and griots. I’m uncertain of the difference between the two, or if there is one. In any case, when Aghaly was young, he chose the tehardine. Training in the shadow of his father, Amoumine, the two brothers left to seek their fortunes.

The brothers traveled throughout the diaspora, finding Tuareg and Sonrai and playing at weddings. They traveled through Burkina Faso, down to Abidjan, then North into Kidal. “The city was nothing then, just a generator. It was the bush! One night there was a panic in the town, a whole family was killed by scorpions!” They traveled North into Algeria, to a place called Ingazzam, resting there for 10 days, playing in weddings and collecting money. They took the money and purchased gasoline, blankets, and other goods to take to Niger to sell. But on the way to Niamey they heard news of a relative’s wedding. They had to spend all the money on their family. “It’s like that,” Aghaly shrugs.

The brothers continued onto Kano and Lagos, Nigeria (“I never went out of the house in Lagos” Aghaly says). There they received news that their father had died, leaving the family alone. The brothers realized it was time to return. They crossed the border the same day it closed. The Malians applauded when they arrived. knowing them to be the last ones to make it across. “If we came later, the army would have killed us.”

Takamba is immediately recognized by the complex but distinctive rhythm played on the calabash. Takamba is also a dance, kind of a slow ghostly movement, but also a subtle courtship. Performed on the tehardine, the traditional instrument is electrified through small amplifiers and transducer microphones. “The first time my father played with an electrified tehardine,” Aghaly says, “the microphone fell over and my father said ‘I knew it would fall, listen to the sound, it’s too big.'”

In 2017, Aghaly formed a new group, Tallawit Timbouctou. His repertoire today is a record of his travels. From flattering odes to his patrons in different cities, ballads learned along the way from other groups, and traditional pieces that have long circulated amongst the griots, takamba is as much an ancient music as a living record. Earlier this year, we released a special WhatsApp “live” recording. Their debut album is now available on vinyl/cd/digi from the shop and bandcamp.

Tracklist

Hali Diallo – a song for a Pulaar women, from Badi-Hausa, near Ansongo. Written in 1992 in Niamey. She is generous to all the griots, and gave Aghaly lots of money, bazzin, and furniture.

Super Continue – from a group in Niamey

Adernibah – Takamba classic. Translates to “lost feet”. Written by Hamar Assalla, the first griot of Gao. It’s about Sallo and Douma, in a car, lost in the desert. The griot took out his guitar and everyone was happy. It tells the story of Ifoghas. “Everyone should listen to this song, everyone in Agadez, America, Mali.”

Khoumeissa – Another ancient song by Hamar Assalla. Telling the story of a man and woman who dance.

Ami Cisse – Woman from Timbouctou. Written by Baris Ahmedou.

Kanji – Written by Ahany, from Rharous Gourma.

Fatimatou – Written by Aghaly, for a woman from Gao, now deceased.

Kalitay – Song for a group from Gao, led by Doudou.

Abacabok – Song for Hawali, an ancient marabout, who didn’t like griots, and tells the story of how they convinced him to bless their takamba.

Chebiba – A song for the youth. Originally composed as Ishumar guitar song.

Takamba WhatsApp on March 28th, 2018

Takamba WhatsApp

Takamba music is played on traditional guitar (tamashek: teheredent), with a remarkable distinctive rhythm tapped out on a calabash. It’s always accompanied by a beautiful ghostly dance. I’ve written about the music previously and released a few records. The origin of the music remains somewhat shrouded in mystery. Suffice to say that it’s a hugely popular music that ruled the festivals and weddings in the North of Mali and Niger, before it was bumped out of fashion by the electric guitar teshumara that now dominates the scene.

I first met Agali while searching for griots in Timbouctou, and he warmly invited me back to his home later that evening. I proposed to make him a recording, which he could sell on CD (later formed the basis of our 2012 release “Takamba”). The recording was punctuated with shout outs throughout – “Christoph! New York! Mali!”. Although I’ve not returned to Timbouctou in years, I once ran into the recording again. A tense moment, in rural Niger, fleeing from potential Salafists, it came on the car’s radio – a surreally comforting Agali kept sending me his thoughts as we barrelled through the countryside.

It’s almost impossible to get a takamba recording minus the shout-outs. Takamba musicians usually do not play to release music in commercial form, and recordings are organized by someone. These sessions were recorded to cassette in the past. Takamba musicians played directly into a boombox and onto tape. The tapes circulated, resold and dubbed at markets across the Sahel. The format on the recordings is always the same. After a sort introduction (something shared with “teshumara” tuareg guitar recordings) the musicians launch into song, yet keep a constant narration about the songs, the musicians, the people present, and the person commisioning the recording. The songs become self referential, constantly reminding where, when, and why they were made.

Takamba 2011

I’ve haven’t made it back to Timbouctou for years, due to security concerns. And it’s very difficult to organize a new recording with our channels of communication. Agali, for example, speaks very little French, and any phone call requires him to walk through town to find his brother to translate. Even then, the connection to Timbouctou is fickle. And neither of them can use a computer, record songs, or have a monthly subscription to Google Drive. A few days ago I had an idea. “Do any of the younger kids at your house have Whatsapp?” Soon I was connected with his nephew, who not only has a smartphone with Whatsapp, but also speaks English. We had actually met before, he told me: in 2011, we couldn’t find a mic stand, and he had been tasked with holding the microphone. With this new line of communication, we began planning a new album.

Today, Agali sent over a recording. It was recorded today, played directly into the cellphone, and sent to me via WhatsApp. It’s recorded in the classic “cassette” format, with an introduction, explanation (in French!), shout-outs, and name drops. The new media form of takamba is evocative of the cassette (Agali even refers to it as such on the recording). The new Takamba just has the added benefit that it can just move a lot quicker, if you know where to look.

Agali Ag Amoumine’s Takamba WhatsApp EP 2018 is available on bandcamp now. It’s unmastered, not eq’ed, and preserves the format. It was recorded, sent, and uploaded today. It’s definitely the quickest we ever released a recording. It’s probably best listened to on a cellphone.

It’s a free download, but if you pay 100% of proceeds go to Agali. I think that’s called World Music 2.0.

We’ll have a new album soon, and hopefully a tour to follow in 2019!