Al Bilali Soudan
Al Bilali Soudan's performance-style is an improvisational tour de force of traditionally-based rhythms and scales. The group's name is the ancient name of the city of Timbuktu. Their style is takamba, or in Timbuktu, tashigalt. Or, simply, tehardent, after the traditional stringed instrument played by these musicians. The group's leader, Abellow Yattara, hails from a well-known Tuareg griot family which has performed this music for generations. Mr. Yattara began to play this three-stringed fretless instrument when he was 10 years old. Both his father and uncle were master musicians and his grandfather was also known for making the ceremonial swords used in traditional dance that accompanies the music. Abellow Yattara's instrument is widely heard in West Africa. Known as tehardent in Tamasheq, ngoni in Bambara, kourbou in Sonhrai, and tidinit in Arabic, it is the precursor of the modern banjo. Instruments similar to the tehardent have accompanied griots, bards, dancers, and vocalists for centuries. The percussion instruments on this recording are the calabash, a hollowed half-gourd. Mr. Yattara can also be heard on many other recordings, such as the first cassette recordings of Ali Farka Touré, the 1970s recordings of the Orchestre De Tombouctou, and many Radio Mali broadcasts. He can also be heard on the recordings of several other contemporary artists such as the vocalist, Khaira Arby, and he is widely sought-after to play at weddings, baptisms and other celebrations. Now, Abellow Yattara brings his own band, Al Bilali Soudan, to world audiences. Made up of cousins and in-laws, the group has played together for years. Aboubacrine Yattara plays the bass tehardent, Mohamed Dicko and Abdoulaye Ag Mohamed play calabash. Their ease with one another is obvious in the verve of their relaxed performance-style. This recording represents contemporary masters of their instruments and their genre.