Words by Nigel Williamson
All credit to hip UK indie label FatCat for picking up this fine album. Kaani (Happy) is actually the third album from Niger’s Tal National but is the group’s first to get an international release. The group is led by guitarist Hamadal Issoufou Moumine (aka Almeida), who is a kind of West African renaissance man – he’s also a court judge and in a previous career was a well-known local soccer player. It’s a record that reflects Niger’s status as a cultural crossroads along ancient trade routes and a melting pot of different ethnic groups. Songhai, Fulani, Hausa and Touareg are all represented in the ranks of this 13-strong collective.
Expertly recorded by Chicago-based engineer Jamie Carter in Niamey’s dilapidated Studio Maibianigarba on clapped-out equipment, he thrillingly captures the band’s funky mesh of electric guitars and clattering percussion, which is as tight as you’d expect from a band that has apparently been playing five-hour sets five nights a week for years. Moody Songhai guitars, Hausa polyrhythms cranked out on fuji drums and Touareg desert blues combine to create a rich, hybrid sound that draws on familiar West African elements to create something rewardingly fresh and different.
TRACK TO TRY: Sarkin Fada