Currently composed of Almeida (guitar), Babaye (guitar), Tafa (guitar), Massaoudo (vocals), Souleymane (vocals), Maloumba (vocals), Seidou (vocals), Dalik (vocals), Yac Tal (bass), Essa (bass), Omar (drums), Souleymane (drums), Aboullay (drums), Sgt. Maty (drums, vocals), the Niamey, Niger-based collective Tal National features a rotating cast of collaborators that represents their homeland’s diverse array of cultures with members from their homeland’s Songhai, Fulani, Hausa and Tuareg populations. Interestingly, the collective have developed a reputation for joyous and hypnotic, West African guitar music that draws from the diverse musical cultures of Niger as their work possesses elements of highlife, Afrobeat, kora, Tuareg blues, Malian griot, Hausa rolling 12/8 rhythms and so on, as well as American psych rock delivered with virtuoso precision and unrelenting energy.
The band’s 2013 debut effort was released through FatCat Records to critical acclaim from the likes of The New York Times, The Guardian, The Independent, Mojo, Vice and The Wire, with frenetic live sessions on NPR, KEXP and WBEZ. Building upon a growing international profile, the band received praise from the likes of Pitchfork, Afropop Worldwide, The Fader, The Quietus, The Boston Globe and NPR.
Released last Friday, Tantabara, Tal National’s third album continues their ongoing collaboration with Chicago, IL-based engineer Jamie Carter on production and engineering duties, and the album which was recorded in the collective’s hometown of Niamey, Niger. Unsurprisingly, the album find the collective furthering their expressed mission of making a global audience dance to their hypnotic grooves, all while focusing on capturing the energy and vibe of their live sound to tape. Much like their counterparts, the collective have managed to create a huge sound of extremely limited resources, which frequently means that the members of the collective record in a remote, recording rid in a dusty, makeshift studio, working with minimal recording equipment and instruments on the verge of disrepair. Interestingly, the collective credits their songwriting and recording process to adding to their overall communal spirit, with opening their home up as a studio as a way for everyone within the group to be involved; in fact, Tantabara’s 8 tracks features 8 different vocalists — 7 of whom are full-time members.
Additionally, the album finds the collective looking back on a busy and influential period of time spent honing their live and recorded sound drawing from a number of Stateside tours, live sets at WOMAD Festival and Roskilde Festival and their legendary 5 hour plus live shows at their Niamey nightclub.
Tantabara’s latest single “Akokas,” much like the bulk of their work is centered around a tight danceable yet trance-like groove, some blistering and virtuoso guitar work and complex polyrhythm but at its core is much-needed celebration of diversity, acceptance and tolerance — and along with that, two larger, universal messages: that music is a powerful, unifying force and that there’s love, freedom, acceptance on the dance floor, if you let go of your preconceived notions and let the moment.
The recently released video for “Akokas” features wild and psychedelic visuals of the band’s members performing the song, capturing the band’s ebullient and euphoric spirit and the song’s trippy grooves.