Since breaking out internationally with 2013's Kaani, West African powerhouse Tal National have honed their unclassifiable multi-ethnic guitar rock to a razor-sharp edge. Based out of Niamey, Niger, they emit an infectious energy and blazing musicianship, combining elements of desert and songhai blues, highlife, and Afrobeat, which they deliver with an almost punk-like ferocity. Already stars in their home country, they found their way onto the roster of U.K. indie FatCat Records with the help of American producer/engineer Jamie Carter, releasing first Kaani, and then the exuberant Zoy Zoy in 2015. On Tantabara, their third effort for the label, Carter once again traveled to Niamey, setting up his mobile rig in the band's makeshift rehearsal space for another go at capturing the sheer vitality of their performance. If anything, Tantabara puts on an ever fiercer show than its two predecessors, its wild polyrhythmic grooves and ebullient group vocals lending an unyielding sense of vigor to every song. Standouts like the fiery lead single "Akokas" and the dizzying "Entente" are introduced by hoarse shouts before cutting their own snaky paths of rhythmic complexity and hive-mentality group dynamics. Another highlight, "Trankil," weaves rich group harmonies into its warm, sunny groove, making it one of Tantabara's most joyous and uplifting tracks. While a core crew of musicians constitute the touring band, at home Tal National are a large and varied ensemble representing the Tuareg, Fulani, Hausa, and Songhai populations that all reside in Niger. Guest singer/rapper Zara Moussa adorns the title cut with a different full-time bandmember leading each subsequent track. Somehow, the group's unity remains wholly apparent, as they continue to cut their own distinctive musical path on this excellent release.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger