Les Filles Illighadad – Eghass Malan (Sahel Sounds)


The first Les Filles Illighadad album, released in 2016 felt revelatory. Acoustic, gentle, it was an incredibly rare feminine take on Tuareg blues. Sahel Sounds called it ‘rural music’ from Illighadad, a small village made up of mud houses in Central Niger. It came with some amazing Youtube clips of their performances that felt so pure, so unencumbered by the economics and commodified nature of western music. It really was something special. It’s was quite literally field recordings of Fatou Seidi Ghali and her cousin vocalist Alamnou Akrouni playing in their community. In the clip she is surrounded by friends. People wander in and out, clap and participate. It’s music for everyone. The b-side was music for the night more percussive, music for the party. The success of this debut prompted a European tour – a big step since previously the furthest the ensemble had travelled was Niger’s capital Niamey.

This second album, titled Eghass Malan is their first studio album, recorded in Germany (during this tour), mixing their Tuareg guitar music with rural folk, or Tende music – named after a drum, built from a goat skin stretched across a mortar and pestle. Their music here is much more upbeat, droning hypnotic guitar, handclaps and percussion and an interplay those amazing sonorous voices. This isn’t the fragile music from Side A of its predecessor, there’s a confidence and complexity here. They’ve even plugged in, playing electric guitar on some of the pieces. Yet despite the development it still retains the same kind of power of its predecessor – but it’s a different kind of power. Where their first album felt so innocent fragile and unencumbered, a gentle wisp of a summer breeze under a tree in the desert, Eghass Malan captures various other moods and sees the trio expanding their repertoire. Aside from the addition of the electric guitar there’s a percussive stomp to pretty much every song, a simple repetitive heartbeat. The vocals too are very present, beautifully recorded mixed in together in the same space, taking on near hypnotic qualities. Whilst the tempo and the recording quality has increased for Les Filles Illighadad this beautiful life affirming music is still quite remarkable, and still sounds like nothing else around.


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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.