Tal National is one of Niamey, Niger’s chief party bands, a powerhouse team of musicians who stage nightly marathon shows and summon a rich, cosmopolitan cipher of West African styles. Elaborate melodies blossom into intricate latticeworks of many guitars and eventually settle into a mesmerizing, repetitive groove. That groove is a maximalist representation full of sonic cues to the traditional styles of many Saharan peoples: the Tuareg, Hausa, Songhai et. al. This big sound is quite literally reflected by the band’s bulging talent pool and intense performance ethic. Tal National’s international press release tells of a 13-man gang who tag in and out of five hour shows “without breaks” and describes bandleader Hamadal “Almeida” Moumine as an charismatic “jack of all trades” type (he serves as a local judge, works for an “SOS orphan foundation,” and used to be a professional soccer player).
The band’s most recent release, Kaani, came out on Fat Cat Records and makes for a fantastic listen. The high fidelity and detailed arrangements present throughout perpetually call attention to the skilled musicianship and stamina of these players. Yet hearing this album makes one imagine what the energy and power of a live show must be like… Old live videos on YouTube show a scrappy, DIY band in various desert-town venues, a row of guitarists blaring through a pile of speakers and amps that are probably all plugged into the same overloaded powerstrip. Tal National was supposed to tour the US last month when the album came out, but were set back due to some visa-paperwork issues. The group finally made it over this month with a compact, 6-person ensemble, announcing rescheduled dates on their Facebook page, and is currently touring east (winding up in NYC on the 20th), Kaani has been posted across the web a fair amount and is a great point of entry, however the band’s been around since 2000 and has a couple earlier albums up on its Bandcamp. Or better yet, for a blunt intro to the band’s collagist, “digital age in the desert” aesthetic, check out this insane video for “Limousine,” a transcendent collision of green screen effects, autotone, straight-stuntin’ and guitar shredding. words/a spoto