african music chant guitar music Tuareg world world music

Les Filles de Illighadad – At Pioneer Works Review

Tuareg meets pestle and mortar for a wonderful album of desert blues and life.

Sounds like…

African pioneers bringing together various musical cultures and ideas for the desert blues.

The review

From a remote village in central Niger, Les Filles de Illighadad are ready to rock. Their name literally means The Ladies of Illighadad and they perform Tuareg music. This is a type of guitar music that crosses over with desert blues and hails from Northern and West Africa. The music is growing in popularity but women are often not allowed or given the platform to perform it. Les Filles de Illighadad are pioneers in this field as they merge together a couple of different musical ideas.

Les Filles de Illighadad

Firstly, you have the Tuareg guitar noodling. The guitar playing is snake like. You aren’t hearing chords, its more like a fast stream of individual notes and reminds me a little of the Kora or the dulcimer. It drives the music forward like a river bend and means the music doesn’t take a verse/chorus structure, its like a flow of consciousness. Secondly, Les Filles de Illighadad uses a percussion technique called tunde. This involves using a drum like a pestle and mortar to grind and mash similar to an Irish Boudrhan. It adds to that rambling river vibe. Add to this the fact that the vocals are performed like campfire songs with chants and clapping and you have something quite visceral whilst being rootsy.

The album itself contains six tracks performed live – some of them upwards of ten minutes each. You can hear the audience clapping along in the background. As the call and response of some tracks like ‘Telilit’ flows out like a call to the soul, its as if the masses are joining the circle. It is such a simple addition to the album but really gives it extra zest. As a result, ‘At Pioneers Work’ feels like African blues with a Celtic barnfolk atmosphere. It sounds unique and is a joy to experience.

If you want to hear about musical pioneers – Les Filles de Illighadad are right at the forefront of it. Tearing up the history book by embracing it, this is soulful music that reminds you all musical cultures are breaking new ground. A delightful treasure that evokes the feeling of community, spirit, a starry night sky and the feeling of being free.

Recommended track: Surbajo

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Les Filles de Illighadad - At Pioneer Works



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