Music Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Tal National: The Rock Stars Of West Africa

Originally published on Thu October 17, 2013 6:25 pm

Tal National is the most popular live act in the West African nation of Niger, and the band is ready to go global. Its third album, Kaani, is the first to get an international release, and it arrives just in time for the group's first U.S. tour.

The first thing that hits you when you listen to Tal National is the band's tightness and fiery energy; its guitar and percussion-driven grooves are bursting with exuberance.

The song "Wongharey" praises the fighters of Niger's history and thanks God that the country is at peace today. It is, but given the political tensions unfolding in West Africa these days, that peace is fragile. So it means a lot that Tal National includes members from all of Niger's major ethnic groups and creates songs in a variety of languages that celebrate the lives of their countrymen.

With a large, rotating lineup of multi-instrumentalists, this band is beloved in Niger for its epic live performances. The band's sound features shredding electric guitars, but it in no way mimics Western rock. The guitar tone is sharp and stinging, but the rhythms and melodies are rooted in local traditions; this really is African rock.

Tal National's leader, who goes by the name Almeida, has a somewhat surprising day job — he's been a judge for 20 years. Now, you might not want to have your case appear before a guy who plays five-hour concerts five nights a week, but based on this band's wisdom and openhearted vision for a peaceful, multiethnic Niger, I think I might just take that chance.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Tal National is an electric dance band from the West African nation of Niger. It's one of the most popular live acts in that desert country. And Tal National is now ready to go global. Their third album, "Kaani," is the first to get an international release. Banning Eyre has this review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WONGHAREY")

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: The first thing that hits you when you listen to Tal National is the band's tightness and fiery energy - guitar and percussion-driven grooves just bursting with exuberance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WONGHAREY")

EYRE: The song "Wongharey" praises the fighters of Niger's history, and thanks God the country is at peace. It is. But given the political tensions unfolding in West Africa these days, that peace is fragile. So it means a lot that Tal National includes members from all of Niger's major ethnic groups and creates songs in a variety of languages that celebrate the lives of their countrymen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EYRE: With a large, rotating lineup of multi-instrumentalists, this band is beloved in Niger for their epic live performances. The band's sound features shredding electric guitars but in no way mimics Western rock. The guitar tone is sharp and stinging, but the rhythms and melodies are rooted in local traditions. This really is African rock.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EYRE: The guitarist here is Tal National's leader, who goes by the name Almeida. Almeida has a day job, too. He's been a judge for 20 years. Now, you might not want your case to appear before a guy who plays five-hour concerts five nights a week. But based on this band's wisdom and open-hearted vision for a peaceful, multi-ethnic Niger, I might just take that chance.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. He reviewed "Kaani" by Tal National.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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