Les Filles De Illighadad – At Pioneer Works (Sahel Sounds)


Les Filles de Illighadad (“daughters of Illighadad”) was founded in Illighadad, Niger in 2016 by solo guitarist Fatou Seidi Ghali and renowned vocalist Alamnou Akrouni. Their debut album, recorded under the trees on a lazy afternoon in Niger by Sahel Sounds honcho Chris Kirkley is absolutely spellbinding. It’s an album you keep going back to, these gentle intimate acoustic Tuareg tunes in a female voice felt rare and remarkable. There was nothing else like it. You can read our review here.

In 2017, they were joined by Amaria Hamadalher, and Abdoulaye Madassane and they recorded their debut studio album Eghass Malan (review here) and began to tour throughout Europe, where their sound became larger, and the fragility was replaced by a gentle assuredness, yet their incredible intoxicating vocals remained, these ancient village choral chants over beautiful webs of Tuareg desert guitar. It’s a remarkable combination, it’s music for trance, for falling into the metronomic rhythms, repetitive guitar riffs and gorgeous vocals .

Recorded live in 2019, At Pioneer Works in New York where the band played two sold-out shows, it’s incredible to hear the bands development from those first recordings in 2016. Probably the best evidence of this is ‘Telilit’ from their first recording, which notwithstanding the move to electric from solo acoustic guitar, and in what was no doubt a different vibe from a lazy day in Illighadad, the piece slightly increases the tempo and is significantly more drawn out, at almost double the length of the original.
‘Eghass Malan’, by contrast, the title track off their 2017 album is actually slowed down, like their busy touring schedule helped them find the songs groove. There are two pieces from their Eghass Malan album on this collection as well as three new pieces that we haven’t heard before including the joyous infectious ‘Irriginan’, which breaks down towards the end into some incredible acapella. It would have been incredible to see this live.

This is deep spiritual meditative music. Music that hypnotises and transports you. With each performance Les Filles de Illighadad bring us a piece of their village in Cental Niger, a place many of us had never heard of or will ever go. That’s why these discoveries from Sahel Sounds are so important, from Les Filles De Illighadad to Mdou Moctar to Mamman Sani and countless others they reveal a rich incredibly moving culture that’s all too often ignored in the west.


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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.