Mu­sic from the ar­chives: Mam­man Sani’s ‘Taaritt’

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

There’s a third and fi­nal chap­ter in this Mam­man Sani story. It must be told for all sorts of rea­sons. The fact that none of th­ese al­bums were ever prop­erly re­leased at the time of their cre­ation el­e­vates the tale to an­other level. There’s no bet­ter ex­am­ple of the pro­fi­ciency of an artist work­ing in splen­did iso­la­tion. All th­ese gems lay cov­ered in desert dust for 30 years. Their dis­cov­ery was a mir­a­cle in it­self. Fac­tor in the qual­ity of his com­po­si­tional and mu­si­cal skills and we’re in the realm of a fairy tale.

Of the three al­bums that have been re-re­leased, this one was the last recorded. It dates from 1985 and 1986. There’s a slight change of em­pha­sis in the sound. The first two were mirac­u­lously fash­ioned from a sin­gle or­gan he had brought back to Niger from Italy, but by this time he had ac­quired a cou­ple of ana­log Roland and Yamaha synths as well as a rudi­men­tary drum ma­chine. This gives the mu­sic a slightly dif­fer­ent shape and hue but the un­mis­tak­able flow that set the oth­ers apart is again the defin­ing fea­ture here.

Sani has a golden touch on the keys. Where oth­ers nav­i­gate, he glides. The flu­id­ity of his play­ing matched with his highly un­usual melodic pat­terns makes for mes­meris­ing lis­ten­ing. It stands apart from ev­ery­thing else. Once you pay a visit, it be­comes some­where you need to keep re­turn­ing to. It’s a unique land­scape, a world unto it­self.

For in­stru­men­tal mu­sic, it feels re­mark­ably like there’s a voice be­hind it. There’s cer­tainly a highly con­sis­tent lan­guage and tone. Sani’s re-imag­in­ing of Sa­ha­ran folk mu­sic in fu­tur­is­tic di­men­sions took him into new ter­ri­tory. The spirit in which he con­ducted his trav­els is the most in­spi­ra­tional thing of all.

This is is art for art’s sake. His per­sonal search for the di­vine took him into a dif­fer­ent strato­sphere, but the desti­na­tion is im­ma­te­rial. It’s all about the jour­ney.

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