The music of Mauritanian synth player Ahemdou Ahmed Lowla is counter to the raucous distorted chaos of the electric wedding bands that Sahel Sounds have previously released (Nouakchott Wedding Songs). There is something quite magical about the simplicity of his music, created solely on an old Yamaha Arabic scaled pitch-bending synth with hokey artificial percussion. His label calls it ‘baroque’, a certain sense of space and cleanliness, where each element has its own unique frequency and place. It’s a style of music called WZN, or instrumental music, that’s considered the pop music of Mauritania. Sahel Sounds have previously released the work of Ahemdou Ahmed Lowla on Top WZN, collaboration with lute player Jeich Ould Badu.
Unexpectedly Ahemdou Ahmed Lowla is also a popular wedding performer, and you can find clips on youtube of him hyping the crowd by playing his synth with his elbows on a synth held by others on a strange angle. It’s fascinating listening to his music outside of its cultural context. Whilst the backing percussion tends to continue on unabated, Lowla’s intricate keyboard runs tend to be rather stop start. At times it feels only a few steps removed from Arabic muzak, which is probably where the label’s baroque reference comes from, though Lowla manages to ramp things up every now and then.
This is really peculiar and beautiful music. It’s another unique approach to sound that at times seems to have links to, but in reality exists far outside of western musical experience.