SUNKEN TREA­SURE

Mam­maneSani Ab­doulaye’s ‘La Musique Élec­tron­ique du Niger’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Donal Di­neen

The ro­man­tic no­tion of the mu­si­cian mak­ing mu­sic in splen­did iso­la­tion purely for their own vo­li­tion is a con­cept that has been ren­dered al­most ob­so­lete in the mod­ern world.

The im­mense evo­lu­tion in the tools of the trade has changed all of this. The means of mak­ing mu­sic has found its way into our pock­ets in the shape of smart- phones for one thing. Gen­er­at­ing sound is now just a click away.

Things were a lot dif­fer­ent in Niamey in 1978. The cap­i­tal of Niger is where Mam­mane Sani Ab­doulaye called home. A deep love for mu­sic was in­cul­cated by his fam­ily. His father’s oc­cu­pa­tion as a li­brar­ian at the Amer­i­can Cul­tural Cen­tre was a bless­ing. In­for­ma­tion on the world at large was at his fin­ger­tips and he was for­tu­nate enough to have the sound of else­where reach­ing his cu­ri­ous ears. The seeds of his artistry were sown early.

Through his po­si­tion as a func­tionary with Unesco, he got to spread his wings and visit Ja­pan and Europe. Travel broad­ened his mu­si­cal hori­zons fur­ther and on one such trip he pur­chased the se­cond-hand elec­tronic or­gan that would en­able him to re­alise his lu­cid elec­tric dreams back home.

There were no prece­dents for the type of com­po­si­tions he con­jured on this ma­chine. His ref­er­ence points were the folk­loric songs and rhythms of the Wo­daabe and Tuareg tribes but his soli­tary pur­suit of a mod­ern twist on th­ese tra­di­tions lead him into en­tirely uncharted ter­ri­tory. His sin­gu­lar voy­age of dis­cov­ery was not in vain.

There’s magic in the lan­guid way the tunes un­furl like desert flow­ers. Their sur­face sim­plic­ity is un­der­pinned by a beau­ti­fully melodic un­der­tow that draws you in un­bid­den. It’s deeply con­tem­pla­tive mu­sic. The pen­sive mood never wa­vers. The lis­tener is a pas­sen­ger on a jour­ney to pre­vi­ously hid­den realms.

It was recorded in a stu­dio at Niger Na­tional Ra­dio in two takes. As few as 100 cas­settes were made. Its sur­vival is al­most as mirac­u­lous as its prove­nance. By sheer chance this mu­sic was dis­cov­ered and re­leased anew by the Sa­hel Sounds la­bel in 2013.

I be­lieve in mir­a­cles.

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