TAL NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY
Tal National is a band from Niamey, the capital city of Niger, West Africa’s largest nation (and one of the world’s poorest). Although they are hugely popular in their homeland where their music is heavily featured on Niger national TV, they can still be found selling their CDs on roundabouts in Niamey, since the country has no distribution system. Each year they do national tours, travelling 18,000 kilometres throughout Niger, performing shows in over forty cities.
In their joyously hypnotic, highly unique contribution to West African guitar music can be heard the history of Niger as a cultural crossroads along ancient trade routes. Collected within the borders of the former French colony can be found Songhai, Fulani, Hausa, and Tuareg populations, all of whom are represented in the musicians of Tal National. These different ethnic groups tie Niger closely to the peoples of its more powerful neighbours Nigeria, Mali, Algeria, and Libya. In the band’s ‘tradi-modern’ music the listener can hear strong reverberations of the rolling 12/8 rhythms in the Hausa’s Fuji percussion, the pensive aridity of the Tuareg’s assouf or “desert blues”, and the exquisite “griot guitar” of Mali’s Songhai. These African roots sounds are all delivered with virtuoso precision and a driving, energetic immediacy that typifies the sound of nightlife in a modern African city.
On stage Tal National perform with six musicians, but due to their rigorous performance schedule (they play five nights a week for five hours at a time, without breaks) there might be up to thirteen members of the band at any one time. At shows, musicians regularly change places midway through songs (including the amazing sight of drummers swapping without missing a beat). On some nights the band might split up to play two gigs simultaneously. Their material is a combination of original compositions and new arrangements of West African folk songs. The themes dealt with in the songs largely involve love, tolerance, peace, feminine beauty, and the woman’s physical dance expression based on traditional African rhythms.
Tal National is centred around a hugely energetic, inspirational individual named Hamadal Issoufou Moumine (aka Almeida), who also serves as a judge in local courts, ambassador for the SOS orphan foundation, and had a successful soccer career before becoming Niger’s best-loved guitarist.
He formed the band in 2000, they recorded their first album, Apokte, in 2006 and it was well received at home. Then, wanting the follow-up to be a better quality recording, and realising it was cheaper to fly an engineer with remote-recording capabilities to Niamey than for the band to travel to the nearest studio (in Nigeria or Ghana), Almeida recruited Chicago-based recording engineer Jamie Carter, whom he met during the Chicago Calling arts festival. The result was 2008’s ‘A-Na Waya’, an album that became hugely successful in Niger. This album firmly established Tal National as the premier band of Niamey. The record stood out in the domestic market, for both the quality of its sound (a big issue in a country where it’s impossible to buy instruments, where there is no studio that can handle a live band, nor competent engineers), and also for the integration of traditional instruments like the talking drum. Many beyond Niger took notice through YouTube, with three videos from ‘A-na Waya’ each passing 100,000 views.
In January 2011 Almeida brought Carter back to Niamey record their third album, ‘Kaani’, which was captured over two weeks at the run-down Studio Maibianigarba in Niamey. Despite 75% of the equipment being broken, a layer or dust covering every surface and with mosquitoes dwelling in every dark corner, the dilapidated facility was acoustically an ideal environment. Carter was able to set up the equipment he brought with him and capture the magic of the group, spending days with the doors of the control room wide open to provide ventilation, and also to let in the vibrancy of the city. The band would record until 5pm, then get ready for their 5 hour performance later that night.
Signing to FatCat in April 2013, the band is excited to fulfil their dream of touring outside of Niger in order to increase Tal National’s exposure and promote Nigerien culture. Their fourth album, ‘Kaani’ is scheduled for release in September 2013.
All band members currently live in Niamey, Niger.
Almeida / Guitar
Maty / Drums
Longueur / Bass
Yac Tal / Bass
Babaye / Guitar
Omar / Drums
Keljue / Talking drum
Souleymane / Vocals
Seydou / Vocals
Massaoudou / Vocals
Luthord / Vocals
Biri / Drums
Tafa / Guitar