I’m very pleased to be able to premiere this bouncing track from Tal National, from their new album Zoy Zoy.
Having spent a decade doing the legwork across their home country, selling CDs on street corners between five hour sets, the international recognition did not go unappreciated.
The band’s mix great mix of ethnicities and cultures is one of the keys to their appeal. Niger borders Nigeria, Mali and Ghana, and collected within this former French colony can be found Songhai, Fulani, Hausa, and Tuareg populations, all of whom are represented in the membership of the band.
The album is out 14 April, and you can buy it direct from them at Bandcamp.
‘Zoy Zoy’ was recorded in Niamey, Niger’s capital, by Chicago-based producer/engineer Jamie Carter, using a remote recording rig in a dusty makeshift studio. From previous trips to record the band, the logistical kinks had been worked out (for ‘Kaani’, Carter received three serious electric shocks, but none during the recording of ‘Zoy Zoy’). One of the poorest countries in the world, Niger has no proper recording studios, music instrument shops, or record stores. The drummer makes his own sticks. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Tal National thrives in a country parched of resources but teeming with music and rhythm. In the sessions for this album, the band would record all day, then head out at night for more lengthy performances, bringing the energy of each night’s show back to the studio. ‘Zoy Zoy’ is a distillation of Tal National’s traditional roots and tireless drive into pure joy and celebration. The songs are intense yet sophisticated, combining original numbers with new arrangements of West African folk songs, dealing with themes of love, tolerance, peace, feminine beauty and the woman’s physical dance expression based on traditional African rhythms. The band speaks French, but use the American expression “very rock and roll” quite seriously, implying their awareness that the loud guitars and bewildering rhythmic complexity separate them from their West African peers. An attentive listener might catch the production ideas of a Western mind nurtured on indie-rock that Carter couldn’t help but suggest. Using as a backbone the sound that Tal National breathe – sheer electricity and stunning virtuosity weaving a web of melody and rhythm, the flesh of the album is a response to Tal National’s growing stature at home in Niger and their exposure to audiences in other parts of the world.
On stage, Tal National perform with six musicians, but because of their rigorous performance schedule might include up to thirteen members 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 divide to play two gigs simultaneously. The band are touring the USA in support of the album. Check dates here.
1. Zoy Zoy
4. Sey Wata Gaya
Check out Kaani, their first album, here.