|Noura Mint Seymali — Arbina (October 14, 2016)|
Noura Mint Seymali — Arbina (October 14, 2016)••→ The singer’s voice is half imperious command, half invocation of divine protection and her songs have the full griot ellipticality. The Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali makes a reimagined form of Moorish music. At least in one writer’s opinion, this is way better than, like, Radiohead. So please don’t take my ravings about Noura Mint Seymali as some sort of canonical interjection. The griot tradition of West Africa and musical back and forth between the region’s guitar bands and western blues/rock is extensive while traditional Arabic and Moorish influence on international avant garde is immeasurable so Noura Mint Seymali doesn’t need fulsome praise that is dependent on strained comparisons to indie bands du jour or what is or was hip. She’s already hip as hell. I’m just saying that she’s empirically and objectively better than what you’re currently listening to. That’s all.
••→ Noura Mint Seymali: Arbina review — an album to put Mauritania on the musical map.
Location: Nouakchott, Mauritania
Album release: October 14, 2016 vinyl
Record Label: Glitterbeat
01 Arbina 3:47
02 Mohammedoun 4:49
03 Na Sane 2:57
04 Suedi Koum 3:14
05 Richa 5:15
06 Ghlana 3:44
07 Ghizlane 4:39
08 Ya Demb 4:09
09 Soub Hanak 3:54
10 Tia 4:40
••→ Noura Mint Seymali voice, ardine
••→ Jeiche Ould Chighaly guitar
••→ Ousmane Touré bass
••→ Matthew Tinari drums
••→ Mayassa Hemed Vall backing vocal [tracks 05, 06]
••→ Produced: Matthew Tinari
••→ Recorded by: Tony Maimone, Richard Salino, assisted by Mark Schwartz Studio G Brooklyn, New York
••→ Mixed & Mastered by Tony Maimone, Studio G Brooklyn, New York
••→ Album Design Dima Tannir, Beirut, Lebanon
Robin Denselow, Thursday 15 September 2016 18.20 BST / Score: ****
••→ Compared with its neighbours Mali and Senegal, Mauritania has enjoyed little international recognition for its music, but Noura Mint Seymali intends to put that right. A griot (oral poet) from a celebrated musical family, she started out working with her stepmother, the great singer Dimi Mint Abba, and now plays desert rock in a four~piece band dominated by the amplified “modified Moorish guitar” of her husband Jeiche Ould Chighaly. Her powerful voice sounded a little relentless on her first, much~praised international release, Tzenni, but this a more varied affair in which exuberant, full~tilt songs are matched against the lighter, traditional Suedi Koum, or the melodic Richa, written by her father and now dressed up with powerful guitar work. Elsewhere, there are echoes of desert blues and reggae, and some intriguing lyrics. The rousing title track is both a religious praise song and advice to women about cancer screening.
Zachary Lipez, Sep 14 2016, 3:42pm
••→ Noura Mint Seymali hails from a Moorish musical dynasty in Mauritania, born into a prominent family of griot and choosing from an early age to embrace the artform that is its lifeblood. Yet traditional pedigree has proven but a stepping-stone for the work Noura and her band have embarked upon in recent years, simultaneously popularizing and reimagining Moorish music on the global stage, taking her family’s legacy to new heights as arguably Mauritania’s most widely exported musical act of all time. Gamely wielding the griot’s idiom, a form itself distilled from centuries of trans~Saharan musical knowledge, Noura Mint Seymali’s sound as heard on this record carves out a unique position in the musical cartography of West Africa, at once her country’s leading proponent of the avant garde and yet a rigorously devoted tradition~bearer.
••→ Arbina is Noura Mint Seymali’s second international release. Delving deeper into the wellspring of Moorish roots, as is after all the tried and true way of the griot, the album strengthens her core sound, applying a cohesive aesthetic approach to the reinterpretation of Moorish tradition in contemporary context. The band is heard here in full relief; soaring vocals and guitar at the forefront, the mesmerizing sparkle of the ardine, elemental bass lines and propulsive rhythms swirling together to conjure a 360 degree vibe. Arbina refines a sound that the band has gradually intensified over years of touring, aiming to posit a new genre from Mauritania, distinct unto itself; music of the “Azawan.”
••→ Supported by guitarist, husband and fellow griot, Jeiche Ould Chighaly, Seymali’s tempestuous voice is answered with electrified counterpoint, his quarter~tone rich guitar phraseology flashing out lightning bolt ideas. Heir to the same music culture as Noura, Jeiche intimates the tidinit’s (Moorish lute) leading role under the wedding khaima with the gusto of a rock guitar hero. Bassist Ousmane Touré, who has innovated a singular style of Moorish low–end groove over the course of many years, can be heard on this album with greater force and vigor than ever before. Drummer/producer Matthew Tinari drives the ensemble forward with the agility and precision need to make the beats cut.
••→ Many of the songs on Arbina call out to the divine, asking for grace and protection. “Arbina” is a name for God. The album carries a message about reaching beyond oneself to an infinite spiritual source, while learning to take the finite human actions to necessary to affect reality on earth. The concept of sëbeu, or that which a human can do to take positive action on their destiny, is animated throughout. While final outcomes rest in the hands of the creator, the duty to use one’s capacities as a human to work towards our hopes and highest intentions roots us in life and relationship to God. The title track ‘Arbina’ applies this concept to specifically empower women in their decisions about preventative healthcare. It advocates for the concrete task of early screening to prevent breast and uterine cancer, sickness that claimed Noura’s own mother at a premature age, while offering an appeal to the ultimate benevolence of God. “Ghizlane” invokes the concept through metaphor, describing the elusive nature of our dreams and the innate obligation to follow. “Richa” reflects of the power of music as a vehicle.
••→ Lyrically, the Moorish griot tradition is complex and associative. Poetry is held in a continuum between author and audience in which a singer may draw on disparate sources, selecting individual lines here or there for musicality to form a lyrical patchwork expressing larger ideas via association. A griot may relate her own thoughts and poetry, sing poetry written for and about her by a third party, and transmit lines from one party addressing another in the course of a single song. With this ever’fluid narrative voice, stories are told.
••→ Arbina is a musical act of devotion, calling upon the creator to channel grace through us and uplift our actions.
••→ Noura Mint Seymali is a nationally beloved star and one of Mauritania’s foremost musical emissaries. Born into a prominent line of Moorish griot, Noura began her career at age 13 as a supporting vocalist with her step–mother, the legendary Dimi Mint Abba. Trained in instrumental technique by her grandmother, Mounina, Noura mastered the ardine, a harp reserved only for women. Seymali Ould Ahmed Vall, Noura’s father and namesake, sparked her compositional instincts, himself a seminal scholar figure in Mauritanian music; studying Arab classical music in Iraq, devising the first system for Moorish melodic notation, adapting the national anthem, and composing many works popularized by his wife, Dimi. Reared in this transitive culture where sounds from across the Sahara, the Magreb, and West Africa coalesce, Noura Mint Seymali currently drives the legacy forward as one of Mauritania’s most adventurous young artists. ••→ Fueled by the exploratory sound of her husband Jeiche Ould Chighaly’s emotive psych guitar lines, Noura and Jeiche formed their first “fusion” band in 2004. Jeiche, a master of the tidinit (aka. ngoni, xalam), brings the force of yet another important line of Moorish griot to bear, translating the tidinit’s intricate phrasing to a modified electric guitar with heroic effect. His unique sound, mirroring vocal lines and then refracting their melodies into the either, was born out of years presiding over wedding ceremonies, directing the dance often as the sole melodic instrument. In addition to his work with Noura, Jeiche remains one of Nouakchott’s most sought after guitarists for traditional ceremonies.
••→ After two albums — Tarabe (2006) & El Howl (2010) — released locally in Mauritania and years of experimentation adapting Moorish music to various pop formations, Noura Mint Seymali’s current band is a concise return to the roots, a light formation led by the “azawan," a word in Hassaniya that refers to the collective ensemble of traditional instruments; the ardine, tidinit, guitar. Backed by a declarative, funk~speaking rhythm section, composed of Ousmane Touré (bass) and Matthew Tinari (drums), the band has made a formidable debut on the international stage, releasing two EPs ~ Azawan (2012) & Azawan II (2013) ~ and touring widely. The band’s first full~length album for the international market ~ TZENNI ~ was released via Glitterbeat Records on June 20, 2014, followed by an extensive North American tour.
••→ Though performances at events like globalFEST (USA), Festival~au~Desert (Mali), Hayy Festival (Egypt), Roskilde (Denmark) and Lowlands (Netherlands) and collaborations with artists like Tinariwen, Bassekou Kouyaté, and Baaba Maal, the band is actively exposing Mauritanian roots music to the world. In a rare merger of cultural authority and experimental prowess, Noura Mint Seymali applies the ancient musical traditions of the griot with a savvy aesthetic engagement in our contemporary moment, emerging as a powerful voice at nexus of a changing Africa.
Management & International Booking: Luxus Live / Matthew C. Tinari
EU Booking: F~Cat / Norbert Hausen
Record Label: Glitterbeat / Chris Eckman
|Noura Mint Seymali — Arbina (October 14, 2016)|