As I progress through records I need to listen to for the first time or through those I need to revisit in time to release my Top 200 Albums of the 2010s list, I’ve found the need to post about certain releases that aren’t getting the shine I think they deserve from similar outlets’ decade-recapping lists. This should be obvious: even in a standard year, most sites (including my own) share only 50 albums that year had to offer. So much in the wings, left to decay there until music nerds like me come and rediscover them, or to be celebrated in selective anonymity by their core fanbases. I hope to make a place for them in history in this series as I comb through the 2010s.
So for my first entry chronicling my journey through this magical decade, I’m highlighting an appropriately magical record, Les Filles de Illighadad’s Eghass Malan, released in 2017 via Sahel Sounds. The Nigerien trio’s debut album carries on the tradition of all the best Tuareg guitar albums: being hypnotic and truly unlike any other music out there. Tuareg guitar is a style of folk & rock out of Northern Africa, usually attached to a political message of nomadic rebels. When you first hear a rock group from the Sahara, you know it within the first few passages. The drone-like guitar, the polyphonic vocals, the simple percussion – it’s infectious and groovy unlike anything else.
In the 10s, a spotlight was thankfully shone upon the wellspring of massively talented musicians from Northern Africa like Bombino, Mdou Moctar, Imarhan and Tinariwen, helping the genre bridge over to America and establish legions of dedicated fans, usually leading to being hot ticket items at summer park festivals in metropolitan areas. It’s worth mentioning the group’s leader, Fatou Seidi Ghali is one of, if not the first female Tuareg guitar player, breaking the mold in a genre dominated by men.
Les Filles de Illighadad is the least traditionally “rock” out of the group mentioned here (Bombino has had production assistance from Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, for instance), but flourishes in the simplicity of its elements and its structure. Only guitar, hand-percussion, handclaps and the layering of the trio’s vocals comprise these tracks that rarely break out of its hypnotic groove, happy to entrance the listener with these few elements. “Jori”, the track I’m posting here, has one of the best vocal lines on the album, with Fatou going into her higher register among the polyphonic backing of the other two members’ voices, while an acoustic guitar loop with marching percussion that early Animal Collective would have killed for plays underneath.
Like I mentioned earlier, Tuareg groups are definitely one of the western world’s favorite genres of “international” music so it’s not like this band is completely forgotten, but I implore any indie or psychedelic rock fan unfamiliar with Tuareg guitar or any “desert blues” from the Sahara to check out Les Filles de Illighadad. It is absolutely worth your time and worth a spot in your 10s library. Expect more music from the desert to show up in this series of Combing Thru 10s.