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Al Bilali Soudan - Mali

Al Bilali Soudan consists of griots, singers and blacksmiths from the Tombouctou region of Mali, a family orchestra of fathers and sons, uncles and cousins conducted by Abellou Yattara, a master of the tehardent – the Tamasheg word for the three-string ngoni. Soudan was in the past the name of the wide strip from Atlantic coast to Ethiopia, which we now call Sahel. The Tombouctou region was therefore located in the Soudan at the time.

Yatara has been a prominent figure for over forty years. He played on the first cassette recordings of Ali Farka Touré and in the 70s with Orchestre de Tombouctou. His mission with Al Bilali Soudan is to continue the timeless sounds of Tuareg traditions and draw attention to their struggle for survival.

The instruments used consist of four reinforced tehardents and two gourds. The sound is raw and trance-inducing with Yattara with his tehardent fiery outbursts of successive riffs in a recurring groove, with floating hypnotic chants in Tamasheq and Songhai. The cheerful trance culminates in a graceful and rhythmic dance, called Takamba by the Songhai, which begins sitting and then continues standing, with the shoulders and arms moving with the flow of music.

Listen here:

Abellou Yattara – tehardent, vocals

Aboubacrine Yattara – bass tehardent, vocals

Ibrahim Ag Aboubacrine – calebash percussion

Mohammed Abellaw – tehardent, vocals, dance

Hamar Oumar – tehardent, vocals

Ismakali Yattara – calabash percussion