Fatou Seidi Ghali & Alamnou Akrouni – Les Filles de Illighadad (Sahel Sounds)


Sahel Sounds calls this rural music, village music, music for when you don’t have electricity. It’s music that comes from Illighadad, a small village made up of mud houses in Central Niger. It is an album of two sides. The first is acoustic guitar and vocals by Fatou Seidi Ghali, a rare recording of a female Tuareg guitarist in a male dominated musical world. Her music is a gentle, almost sensual take on the Tuareg blues, these delicate webs of repetitive groove that couldn’t come from anywhere else. Yet the key is her incredible vocals, soft, almost expressionless, moving up and down in pitch with guitar. This is subtle, yet deeply personal music. The whole experience, the crickets in the background, the occasional movement of the mic and short comments, chattering and conversations between songs feels intimate, like we’re actually participants ourselves. It’s recorded outside as a continuous session, it’s a little raw, but you can understand why Sahel Sounds have released this – it has power.

The second side by contrast is much more upbeat, more percussive, more joyous and inclusive, with multiple singers, handclaps, wails and the tende, which Sahel Sounds describes as a drum “where two woman sit on pestles flanking a mortar, stretched with an animal skin.”

This time Fatou Seidi Ghali is joined by Talamnou Akrouni, both playing the tende, whilst seemingly a large amount of women from the village make up the choir, led by vocalist Alamnou Akrouni.

This is village music, raucous, hypnotic, life affirming. With multiple parts, and an almost call and response, punctuated by shrill exuberant cries, the key to this piece is the vocals which at times even take on a drone like quality. It’s fascinating, because we have no idea what they are saying we’re forced to analyse the timbre, the texture, and organization. One thing is clear however is that this music is about release, an opportunity for these women to get together with their peers, let loose and howl into the night.

Apparently in this part of the world Etran Finatawa, who blend Tuareg and Wodaabe culture, are quite revered, though this music is much simpler, less produced, freer, more social, though it’s without doubt possible to hear vague links. Yet this is also the key to this label, as they’re unearthing music and offering recordings that would never otherwise see the light of day in the western world, powerful, beautiful and fascinating cultural experiences like Les Filles de Illighadad .


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.