Tal National


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Nigerian large ensemble Tal National spent the time leading up to their third (and first internationally distributed) album Kaani slowly becoming the biggest fish in their relatively small pond. Hailing from Niamey, the capital city of Niger, the guitar-driven group grew from playing nightly five-hour gigs (sometimes splitting their members up to play separate, subsequent gigs in different locales) and releasing ramshackle early recordings to flying in Chicago engineer Jamie Carter to get a more refined, but sufficiently electric sound for the album in a region where functioning recording studios or even instruments are almost impossible to find. Carter succeeded in capturing all the bright enthusiasm of Tal National's sound, upping the clarity of the recording without sacrificing any of the group's raw grit. While their style takes from a wide swath of sound from different regions and eras in African music, be it the driving pulse and repetition of Afro-beat or the bubbly melodicism of Ghanaian highlife, their interlocking guitar lines achieve something so hypnotic it's almost psychedelic at times, and puts them into a different class of originality. This is evidenced on much of Kaani's almost 50 minutes of music, in particular when the guitars answer back and forth with talking drum and bandleader Almeida's husky vocals as on the call and response of "Wongharey," or the slithering time signatures of "Zigda." The drumming of multiple percussionists manages an almost mechanical precision without ever losing the electricity or overall free-spiritedness of the group. Album closer "Banganesiba" finds Tal National climbing to the summit of their collective powers, the song encapsulating all the mesmerizing guitar patterns, blinding polyrhythms, and joyous, celebratory currents of the rest of the album as a whole.

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