Ali Ag Amoumine – ‘Takamba’ LP [Sahel Sounds]

Too many good plates lately, but nothing’s grabbed my attention like the Mississippi Records-released titled Takamba. Recorded in the sound’s native Timbouctou there’s a 40 minute session of Takamba music, performed with an electrified ngoni to create a hypnotic fuzz sound contrasted by the acoustic and thumping rhythms played on another traditional instrument called a calabash. The occasional chanting appears over a challenging time signatures that evolve into more and more complex patterns, despite changing randomly.

Kamikaze introduced me to this on our NTS live show last month, prompting me to purchase it the next day, and since then this record has either been running through my speakers, phones or just embedded in my skull while I go about my business. It’s not only totally unique but the record is just that good.

Check the press release below.

Hypnotic recording session with griot “Ali” Ag Amoumine at his home in Timbouctou. Playing the distinctive style of Northern Mali and Niger known as Takamba — droning electrified traditional guitar accompanied by a haunting rhythm tapped on a calabash — Ali navigates a repertoire drawing on music learned on his travels and his own compositions.


The star player on the album is credited as Ali Ag Amoumine, the ngoni player who’s electrified playing of the traditional instrument is the focus of the recordings, and the percussion comes from Alhassane Maïgaon on calabash. The sleeve is backed with some great shots of them playing and their general set up, and the incredible image on the front displays the rings that are worn by calabash players to create the tapping and clashing sound when they hit the large hollow instrument with their palms.

One more name that made this album possible is Christopher Kirkley, the man behind the amazing Sahel Sounds – which is a site worth bookmarking, as Takamba is barely scratching the surface of what he does. The blog he keeps is an incredible exploration and documentation of West African sound and music, constantly throwing up new field recordings and even exploring record culture in places we’ve never heard of.

Below he talks about the Takamba release which was a Mississippi co-production with Sahel Sounds, quite rightly as he was the one in central Mali with the recorder.

via Sahel Sounds

Takamba is a place. It’s also a slow ghostly dance, a distinctive staggered rhythm clapped on a calabash, and a gritty distorted terhardent. “Ali” Ag Amoumine doesn’t live in Takamba, but 250 kilometers up river in Timbouctou. He’s also not Sonrai, the ethnicity credited with the creation of Takamba, though he’ll remind you that the music is something that unites the Tuareg with the former.

In 2009 I recorded a session with Ali — like most of the cassettes, he began the recording with a description of the date and the people present. There were also these continuous shout outs throughout the session, as well as “New York” (regretfully forgetting the QB). I transferred the session to a CD that I left with Ali. Returning in 2011, Ali informs me that the cassette is quite popular now. He has taken it to the local radio station, and it is regularly broadcast, and found on memory cards from here to Kidal, and probably into Niger. Just to be sure, I asked some cassette sellers if they had heard the “New York Timbouctou Takamba cassette.” They nodded.

The LP comes with a bonus 7″ that features singing over the top of acoustic versions of two of the stand-out tracks from the Takamba album. For some reason, the songs lose a lot of their magic without the b-grade electrical hook-up. If you can’t get a hold of the vinyl anymore Takamba has recently had it’s digital release via bandcamp, details and streams below.