If you’re looking for immediacy then there’s isn’t much as ‘right now’ as Sahel Sound’s “Music from Saharan WhatsApp” series – a logical extension to their two excellent Music From Saharan Cellphones compilations that really catapulted the label into public consciousness. The major difference in this series is that they’re hosting a monthly EP by the artist, then replacing it with another the following month. Also all proceeds of these self recorded (on cellphones) EP’s go directly to the artists themselves, which is a great way to ensure artists, in this case in Mali get to see immediate profits.
Number 4 in the series Alkibar Jr. are from Niafounké which is probably best known musically as the place of birth of legendary Mali bluesman Ali Farka Toure. Alkibar Jr. though are very much plugged in, with multiple vocalists playing the kind of Northern Mali electric blues similar to the likes of Tinariwen, Vieux Farka Toure, Tamikrest and Terakaft. They’ve had an album out in 2017, Jamal, a studio album co produced by Afel Bocoum (his younger brother is Alkibar Jr guitarist Diadie Bocoum) that really highlighted the interplay of the trio of vocalists Sekou Toure, Demba Traore and Amadou Daou and possessed a gorgeous relaxed feel and strangely enough violin. They’ve also released an album in 2012, La Paix on Sahel Sounds/ Mississippi, which was a pretty raw affair recorded in the town by stereo mics by label head Chris Kirkley.
It might demonstrate advances in technology since that time but this self recorded EP on a phone sounds significantly better than La Paix (sorry Chris). The bass is particularly present, and in particular the raw treatment of the vocals seems to emphasise their garage rock origins. It’s more upbeat than its predecessor the drums in particular punch through. But there’s this beautiful rollicking groove that snakes throughout the four tunes. It’s infectious, possessing an unmistakable joyousness in playing. Its real, its live and if you can listen without a smile forming on your face you’re made of stone.
* This is pay what you want on Bandcamp with all proceeds going directly to the artist, before it is replaced by another EP next month.