Tal National, a band from Niamey, Niger, combines the musical traditions of many of the different ethnic groups that make up Niger’s population, including the Hausa’s Fuji percussion, the Tuareg assouf or “blues”, and the Songhai’s guitar style. The result are upbeat, looping tracks that can be almost hypnotic. Founded in 2000, the band has had major hits in Niger since 2006, and are about to kick off their first international tour at the Chicago World Music Festival this September. Their third album, Kaani, will be released on September 10.
It’s actually somewhat hard to tell whether Tal National’s video of Katako is either a throwback to old school African music videos or a parody of the much-loved genre. Members of the band dance and sway energetically on the backs of trucks, on boats, beside streets, and on stage. However, none of their electric guitars are plugged in, the snare drummer spends most of the video tapping away gently in a wheelbarrow pushed by his bandmates, and the lead singer is frequently forced to limit his hand gestures to prevent the large piece of wood balanced on his head from falling off. Admittedly, we don’t have an incredibly clear understanding of the subject of the video. But from where we’re listening? It doesn’t matter all that much. The guitar playing is crazy ripping, the video is a great time, and the overall bundle is the perfect antidote to a summer slumber. Check these guys out- you’ll be glad you did.