Ooleya mint Amartichitt and Ali Farka Toure; Nouakchott improvisations.

This post features a sonic souvenir from a relaxed evening of music shared between two of the Sahel's great artists, Ooleya mint Amartichitt and Ali Farka Toure.  In the spring of 1995, Ali Farka Toure came to Mauritania and peformed at the French Cultural Center in Nouakchott.  In attendance that night was one of his biggest fans, Siham mint Babana, a music connoisseur and patron.  Siham had met Ali Farka several years earlier in Edinburgh, Scotland.

After the concert at the French Cultural Center, Siham invited Ali Farka and his group to her house for an typical Mauritanian evening of music.  As is the custom, she served a mechoui (a roasted lamb) and prepared mint tea.  Siham also invited Ooleya mint Amartichitt and her brother Deye to perform for her guests.  Ooleya and Deye were born in Ayoun el Atrouss, the capital of the Hodh el Gharbi, a region in eastern Mauritania that has deep ties to the musical cultures of northern Mali.  

Ooleya and Deye, and probably their sister Sadiqa, performed an evening of typical azawane (moorish music) for Ali Farka and his group.  And Siham, as is the tradition in Nouakchott, recorded the performance on her boombox.  At the end of their performance Ooleya and Deye asked Ali Farka to sing with them.  

This post features the cassette recording of the improvised musical moment shared by the ehel Amartichitt and Ali Farka.  The first twenty minutes of the recording features the last few songs of Ooleya and Deye's performance.  It is not the greatest performance or the clearest, most balanced, recording, but Deye's guitar sounds good.  I have always loved his guitar tone, phrasing and attack.

At the twenty minute mark, Ali is asked to sing.  He laments that he doesn't have his guitar and Deye answers, 'I will try'.  Ali starts to sing one of his songs and Deye falls in on guitar.  As the song progresses Deye starts to improvise, inspired by Ali's presence.  At the end of the song Deye says, 'let's do another one'.  Ali answers, 'Ok.  My heart is full of joy. Too much, too much emotion in my heart.  I am too proud.'  Ali then asks a rhetorical question, 'oh...where is my guitar?'  Ali had left his guitar at the hotel and Deye is a left-handed player.  Ali then leads the musicians through a second song, with Deye's improvisations even more expansive.  The song and the recording end with Deye saying, 'Thank you Ali.'

Download Ooleya mint Amartichitt, Deye ould Amartichitt, Ali Farka Toure

This recording is unique but not extraordinary, it doesn't feature the most intense performances, but I wanted to share it anyway because I think it wonderfully immortalizes a memorable evening.  It is a trace of the kind of event that exemplifies the context and bonds that are the crucible of the Sahel's most musically rewarding and meaningful musical moments.

Thank you to Siham mint Babana for sharing this cassette with me.  The cassette was in bad shape and I was only able to salvage one side of the recording but I am confident that Ali only sang two songs that evening with Ooleya and Deye.


Post a Comment