Super Onze is a band caught in a strange place, their existence and their art form threatened by religious extremism on one side, and recorded music on the other. Still the music plays on.
Above you’ll find the third video in Instruments4Africa’s series on “endangered musical traditions and essential related art-forms in Mali,” which centers on the raw and heavy takamba group Super Onze.
Since forming in the city of Gao in the ’80s, the group has been providing the soundtrack to feasts and weddings in eastern Mali. Even as radio and television have brought in other more contemporary musical forms, one band member notes that his father played takamba, and—despite what they see on TV—when his children play music takamba is what they play.
Still, life can be hard for live musicians in Mali where, as elsewhere, it’s so much easier to play a recording than hire a band. Even more seriously, when Islamic militants drove the Malian government from Gao in 2012, they broke Super Onze’s instruments, forbidding even talking about music.
The band survived, as did at least one treasured instrument: an ngoni, the stringed instrument that Super Onze fuzzes and buzzes to great effect, slipping in and out of step with their booming percussion section.