Jill Turner gets to grips with the real sound of the sahel as she listens to Alkibar Gignor's new album La Paix: A marshal amp is balanced on top of a speaker and on top of that, a young guitar player, one leg lifted, knee pulled up, elbow drawn back, chin down and ready to rock. We are introduced to the new generation of Northern Mali, Alkibar Gignor. So named because they learnt their trade under the guidance of Afel Boucoum, juniors to the great musician and his band Alkibar. That was back in 2003. Click to Read Full Article
They got their major break in 2006 when they opened the now defunkt Ali Farka Toure Festival. Much to the amazement of the organisers, the young band took to the stage to play their "Hommage to Ali Farka Toure" communicating directly with his children, singing his praises and encouraging the children not to be too sad at his passing but to celebrate the life they enjoyed. By all accounts everyone was in tears at the end of their set including the town's marabout - "Hommage" is now a North Malian anthem and made available to an international audience through an earlier Sahel Sounds release,"Ishilan N-Tenere - Guitar Music form the Western Sahel".
No longer the juniors, they are in great demand up and down the Niger River and were recently awarded Best Band in the Circle of Timbuctou. They know how to play the crowds and interestingly, Amma from the band recounts how Afel Bocoum told them that in order to "appeal to the whites they need to switch to acoustic guitar and calabash only". It is in this style that the album opens with a deliciously simple yet emotionally charged track "Adounia" . The fact that it is reminiscent of the stripped down blues sound of Ali Farka Toure is no coincidence, Alkibar Gignor were born in the same town of Niafunke, they are all "children of the same mother" the literal translation of the town's name. Everyone adores Ali Farke Toure and to play like him is to touch his genius and show their appreciation and inspiration.
However, its not long into the album that we get a taste of their "other" sound. Energetic drumming, as if the drummer is standing up at the kit for extra impact, at times foresaking the drum pedal for an occasional direct kick at the bass drum to give a little more rattle and shake. Raw guitar sounds relayed through cranked up amps favouring the treble a perfect partner to the sounds of Sahl la Guindo's Ndjarka playing. Shout outs and shout backs add to the immediacy. Its a speed garage version of Amadou and Mariam and demonstrated perfectly on the track "Djougal Nanjho". Then there's the final track "Tamala" which starts with a twisted Deep Purplesque, Smoke on The Water type riff and then in a sped up marching band, rock crossover style, it just barges its way through to the end, at a frantic pace complete with distorted vocals. It reminds me of something the Sublime Frequencies crew would have been pleased to record and far away from the peace and tranquility of the opening track.
The album is brought to us by Chris Kirkley who describes himself as Gentlemen explorer and rogue ethno-musicologist. Fearless leader of sahelsounds.
Anyone familiar with his blog, Sahel Sounds will know that he is constantly on the listen out for new sounds whether its on the memory cards of mobile phones in Kahlil's repair shop, the coffee vendors of Niamey Bus Station or various Saharan festivals. Kirkley recorded Alikbar Gignor during numerous visits from 2009 to 2011 and the album includes rehearsals, village performances under the stars aswell as acoustic sessions at Amma's house.
This deserves to be well received even though it will challenge many a "world music"fans notion of African music. Go on get yourself a copy on vinyl at the Little Axe Store or online. The resulting album is available via bandcamp for whatever you can afford, a minimum suggestion is $3 or more and 60% of the price goes directly to the musicians.
Oye Yattara - Director
Sekou Toure - Vocals
Amadou Daou - Vocals
Sifa Kasambara - Vocals
Demba Traore - Vocals
Amma Bocoum - Guitar
Moussa Tiambou - Bass
Sahl La Guindo - Ndjarka
Alkibar Gignor - La Paix at Bandcamp
Keep in touch with the real sounds of the Sahel through Chris's excellent blog Sounds of the Sahel.