Nigerien music consists of the many cultures that make up its people. In their music, you’ll find elements of Hausa, Tuareg, Fula, Zurma Songhai, Arab, and other cultures that have contributed to their musical traditions. And generally speaking, many of these musical traditions are similar to other traditions and styles found throughout West Africa.
If anything, they share many of the instruments used in their music. The molo (a type of lute) and the duma (a type of percussion instrument) are commonly used in Hausa griot traditions. The kakaki (a type of trumpet), the alghaïta (a type of shawm), other types of lutes, flutes, percussion instruments, and fiddles are used for a variety of purposes. Singing is also performed either with or without accompaniment. It can also be solo or in a group setting. Some ethnic groups are known for their choral traditions, like the Beriberi, Fula, and Wodaabe.
Closely tied with music is Nigerien dance, which is a vital part of their cultural festivals, celebrations, and ceremonies. One dance is called the Ruume, a type of circle dance where the dancers sing and clap to the music. Another dance is called the Gerewol, which is a type of courtship dance. The men perform this one, painting their faces and adorning themselves with beads and feathers trying to make themselves attractive to the females who act like they’re blasé about it all but end up choosing the one they like best.
I listened to a few modern groups on Spotify. The first one I listened to is Saadou Bori. He is a reggae musician who performs in an African-style reggae. Like the Caribbean, Africa has its own reggae variations that mixes reggae with their own unique African sounds and instruments. Saadou Bori became pretty popular internationally in the mid-1990s along with fellow reggae musician Moussa Poussy. Fati Mariko is another reggae group/musician. You can definitely pick up on the African drumming styles used in their music.
Mamar Kessey’s music also falls into the reggae category. However, their music also mixes in jazz and traditional Songhai elements into their music. They might be one of the more well-known Nigerien musical groups.
I listened to Etran Finatawa’s album The Sahara Sessions. I really liked this album. They mix together Tuareg and Wodaabe traditions since their members consist of these two ethnic groups. When I listen to this acoustic music, it reminds me of some of the examples of African American work songs we listened to in my college ethnomusicology class. It’s fairly clear whose musical traditions it’s most likely derived from.
One genre I’ve grown to enjoy is Tuareg blues music. I listened to the band Takrist n’Akal. I really like their music. It’s not necessarily blues in an American sense (either Delta or Chicago), but there are still many elements that are similar to it (lowered thirds and sixths, I believe). It’s melodic, and I could hear vocal harmonies in places. The guitar part creates the rhythm underneath the vocal lines. Toumast is another Tuareg blues band. Their name means “the people, the nation” in Tamasheq. If you like this genre but want something a little more on the psychedelic rock side of the blues, you should check out Mdou Moctar’s album Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (original motion picture soundtrack).
And I did find one hip-hop group available on Spotify. I took a listen to Kamikaz’s album Street réalité. Rapped in French, he envelops a very Afro-French sound to his sound. I really can’t comment on what he’s saying since I have no idea. I’m lucky if I can pick out a word or two. But I like how he raps fast – that will always be impressive to me. And each song was different enough to keep me interested in listening further.
Up next: the food