The Endless Journey (Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan, Saturday, June 30, 2012)
Four musicians from four different tribes in Niger, one of the poorest countries in Saharan Africa, played their ‘Endless Journey’ show at Cardigan’s Theatr Mwldan on Saturday.
It was a real treat of live desert music played to a backdrop of atmospheric visuals. The underlying sombre message about the threat facing their own cultural heritage gave the performance an added edge for me – this was a rare opportunity to experience this sound and this stunning collaboration – how much longer will this be available to us, or anyone?
The story of how these talented and committed musicians have worked in their own country, teaching children about their musical and cultural heritage, was told at free film showings earlier in the week. Let us hope their work brings the necessary change and that young people will pick up some of their instruments and learn their traditions and techniques. This sound is much too good to lose.
Just how rare and how precarious is this cultural heritage was illustrated by the fact that one of the musicians - Mamane Barka - is the last person in his country to master the playing of the Biram. This is a traditional instrument created by the fishermen on the edge of lake Chad - a type of harp with five strings - played only by initiated masters and used by the Boudouma tribe in Eastern Niger. For such a simple looking instrument, the sound was astounding.
Two of the other musicians at the heart of The Endless Journey are Alhousseini Anivolla and Bammo Agonla from the desert supergroup Etran Finatawa - a combination of the Touareg and the Wodaabe nomadic tribes. Etran Finatawa’s hypnotic musical groove evokes the breathless heat and shimmering horizon of the Sahara, with laid back guitars, driving rhythms and compelling voices – and some amazing and rather disturbing ‘eye music’ – I bet we never saw that at the Mwldan before!
The fourth member of this desert ‘supergroup’ is Oumarou Adamou, a grand master percussionist.
Together, their swirling strings, driving rhythms and haunting vocals evoke the vast open spaces of the desert and the very soul of nomadic life.
Wherever it originates, and whatever language its composers and players speak, music communicates to us all in a language of its own. It would be a tragedy to lose any aspect of that communication, wherever it comes from.
Do go see if they are in your area. For more on the tour see: www.worldmusic.co.uk