Jakwar 2

In July of 1996, I asked my friend Loulou if he had any cassettes of Mauritanian music.  I had just recently seen my first live performance of Mauritanian music and I was desperate to hear more.

Henri Louis Houmenou, known to all as Loulou, is a Beninois music fanatic who, for the last thirty years, has had a stall at the Marché Fass in Dakar, Senegal.  Loulou collects rare recordings of traditional music, mostly from Senegal and Mali, and sells copies of these recordings to his customers.  Many of his master recordings are dubs of radio recordings, others are live to boombox recordings from village ceremonies, and some are copies of long out of print commercial recordings.  Over the course of a few years, I purchased hundreds of cassettes from Loulou.  He turned me on to the Orchestre Poly-rhytmo de Cotonou, gifting me a cassette compilation of scratchy 45s he had brought with him from Cotonou.  His stall looks out on the intersection where the mini-buses that travel back and forth between Dakar and Ziguinchor, the capital of the Casamance region, load up their passengers.  Loulou used to ask the bus drivers to find him recordings of Diola music and he built up a nice collection of Bugarabu cassettes.

Loulou had five cassettes of Mauritanian music; these were my introduction to Mauritanian guitar playing.  Three of the cassettes were called Jakwar, volumes one, two, and three.  Loulou couldn't tell me if Jakwar was the name of the group, the guitar player, or the style of music.  He had copied the cassettes off a Mauritanian butcher and didn't know anything about them.         


These recordings were mystifying; a distorted guitar playing circular riffs, accompanied by thumping percussion, and punctuated by occasional screaming.  I listened to these three cassettes over and again, hundreds of times over the next two years.  I was mezmerized.  I didn't know anything about this musical universe.  There was no YouTube, no Google, no blogs, no books, no articles, nothing.  The mystery fueled an obsession.

Now, twenty-two years later, I know that Jakwar is the name that Jeich ould Abba gave to the fast, percussive, style of music he created in 1976.  That Jeich gave his new melody the name of the French fighter jets that screamed over Atar during the Saharan war.  That the term has become a generic name to refer to the dance music performed by Hartani musicians (which they themselves call Banjey).  That this music is typically played to celebrate weddings in the poorer neighborhoods of Nouakchott, often on Thursday evenings, under tents pitched in front of homes in neighborhoods like Arafate, or PK.

My favorite of the three Jakwar cassettes I dubbed from Loulou is volume 2.  I still don't know who the guitar players is, or the guitar players--the cassette could be a compilation of several different players.  I think there is a high likelihood that many of the selections feature Kebrou, one of the first Haratine guitar players to make a name for himself in Nouakchott. (I featured two Kebrou tracks on the Wallahi le Zein compilation, but neither of them were taken from this cassette.)    

Download Jakwar 2

I hadn't listened to this cassette in years.  Over the past several weeks, I played it through a half-dozen times, and there are still passages that quicken my pulse and get me screaming.

If you are in Dakar, take a swing by the Marché Fass and say hello to Loulou.  He still has an interesting collection of cassettes and continues to dub them on demand.

Henri Louis Houmenou dit Loulou, February 2018




10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Blast off.


Comments

  1. wow...what interesting stories you have behind the music......!! thanks !

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear sir,
    You are the creator and owner of one of the very very few blogs who's content i can download blindly and never be disappointed. So now, without even have heard todays feast, i can thank you deeply. I am happy already.
    Fine days,
    Gerrit

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Gerrit,

      Thanks very much for your encouragement and support, they are much appreciated. I would say the same about your blog. It brings me great satisfaction that these recordings find their way to curious and enthusiastic ears. If you are interested, I can post volumes 1 and 3.
      very besr
      Matthew

      Delete
    2. one vote for publishing the other two cassettes, this is great!

      Delete

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