Born into a prominent Mauritania-based Moorish musical family with several generations of renowned and beloved griots, Noura Mint Seymali embraced and followed in her family’s footsteps at a very young age. With her backing band, which features her husband Jeiche Ould Chighaly, a guitarist and fellow griot himself, bassist Ousmane Toure, and drummer/producer Matthew Tinari, Seymali has simultaneously popularized, remained and modernized Moorish music for a global audience while grounding their work in the ancient traditions of Saharan Africa, as well as their homeland into a distinct musical genre — largely considered by the band, the music of the Azawan. Sonically speaking, Seymali’s backing band uses some Western instrumentation — tidinit or Moorish lute is replaced by Chighaly’s psychedelic-leaning quarter-tone guitar lines, while paired with Toure’s deep, groove and Tinari’s tight, mathematically precise syncopation. In fact, in some way, Seymali’s work bares an uncanny resemblance to the incredible work of Tinariwen, who mesh rock instrumentation and arrangements with the musical and thematic traditions of the Tuareg people.
Slated for an October 14, 2016 release through Glitterbeat Records, Seymali’s latest effort Arbina is her second international release, and the material on the album reportedly finds Seymali and company delving much deeper into their Moorish roots while possessing a refined sound and aesthetic approach that has developed over several years of touring. Thematically speaking, many of the songs call out directly to the divine, asking for grace and protection pairing that with an overall message about going beyond oneself to an infinite spiritual source, while learning to take the finite human actions to affect reality here on Earth. And while final outcomes are part of God’s plan, it’s our duty to use our natural abilities and talents to work towards bettering this world and our own hopes — and that’s supposed to ground one firmly in life and with their relationship with God. It openly suggests that there is much work to be done and that despite our frailty, it’s up to us to change things for the better while we can.
Now from what I understand, lyrically speaking the Moorish griot tradition manages to be both complex and associative as a singer frequently draws from disparate sources, perhaps selecting individual lines here or there for musicality to form a lyrical patchwork in which larger ideas are expressed. In other cases, sometimes a griot may relate his/her thoughts and poetry or sing poetry written for and about them by a third part or even transmit lines from one party addressing another during the course of a song. And as you can imagine, the effect is an incredibly fluid narrative voice.
Arbina‘s latest single “Na Sane,” consists Seymali’s gorgeous, siren-like vocals, Chingaly’s shimmering and dexterous guitar work that will make you say to yourself “I’ve never heard guitars sound like that,” Toure’s muscular, driving bass grooves and Tinari’s precise, jazz and rock-inspired drumming, with the result is a song that possesses a lush, enveloping and hypnotic quality. And while being thoroughly modern, the song draws from something deeply timeless and unmistakably universal — an aching yearning to be immersed in the love and power of the infinite.
As the band’s drummer and producer Matthew Tinari explains of the recently released video “Essentially, we just threw an impromptu family barbecue. One of the dancers is Noura’s brother Baba; some of the younger boys are nephews of Jeiche. The girl dancer is a friend from the neighborhood. It was a family affair!” The video manages to captures Moorish traditions and daily life in a gorgeous and cinematic fashion.