‘Not Just Phones’ – New Sahel Sounds Documentary In Pre-Production

Here’s a story worth telling. Just as incredible as the music that Sahel Sounds releases as a label are some of the journeys that emerge when bringing them to us. And here’s an opportunity to help spread the message even wider.

Back in 2009 Christopher Kirkley started posting field-recordings and popular traditional and contemporary music from the Sahel region of Africa, which itself stretches over ten countries, 5400km from West to East of North Africa. Initially focussing on the key areas around his base in Cinquieme, Kirkley’s writings on the region and history of the sounds he was posting have always been as much a part of the blog as the downloadable files.

Around two years into dropping street sounds and raw uploads from recorded musicians he’d come across, Kirkley released the first official Sahel Sounds compilation, the Ishilan N-Tenere LP that saw them partnering with the mighty Mississippi Records to get it in to stores and subsequently in to our hands. Their first mark as an official label was shortly followed by the start of what would be their most popular series of releases, initially released on cassette, Music From Saharan Cellphones.

Giving exposure to the way music is shared via phone memory cards in West Africa, it was an eye-opener for a lot of us on the synthesised, autotuned music that was the norm. Some of the tracks were untitled and unknown, but even after the release Chris spent the time tracking the artists down to ensure the proceeds from the releases were finding them.

Over the years the blog continued with it’s uploads of mp3s and then videos of the musicians recorded by Chris, but it was the label that really took off. The release of the Takamba LP in 2011 brought about the best new music I’d heard in years (https://awkmo.co/ali-ag-amoumine-takamba-lp), and it remains the plate I pull out during any listening session or take to any radio station. Recorded by in central Mali, it was the electrification of traditional instruments that produced those fuzzed out sounds that we’d never heard before, recorded live and rough. The accompanying photo and stories of sessions lasting days added to the experience.

In fact, the record struck such a chord that after some basic research we were looking to detour a trip via the area it was recorded, 250 kilometers up river from Timbouctou. After some further research however, we realised this was a terrible idea. The region is one of the most violent in Africa, having experienced constant political unrest with constant military battles, and even the hostage taking and murder of tourists, even in the hotel we were looking at staying in at the time.

Things may not be extreme as the internet-fear was reporting, but this is still an unsettled environment that Chris tracks down musicians, records and releases music within. And if he wasn’t doing it, we’d be missing out on an entire world of music.

Three young filmmakers from Germany are currently raising funds for a long overdue documentary on Kirkley and his remarkable endeavours. Due out in May 2015, it’s worth investing in. Check the trailer below, with the film-makers’ words underneath, promising an epic story and quality viewing.

Head over here to check out the official page and give some cash to help get it made; the opportunity to do so ends on the 14th of May, so don’t sleep.

via IndieGogo – not just phones

As we are following the work of Sahel Sounds since the first release „Ishilan N-Tenere – Guitar Music of the Western Sahel“ we are very curious about every record Chris releases.

Listening to all the music he brings us digitally or on vinyl, we thought a documentary film is the missing piece, espacially for western people, who ,only‘ can listen to the music of the artists, without knowing who these artists are, how and where they live, do they have families etc…

A thrilling fact about all the people Christopher is meeting in the Sahel, is their political situation. For example in Northern Mali, where extremists banned all music on cellphones in 2012. Many Malian musicians have to live in exile, without their families and homes, their work is very transitory, and you can’t tell how long it is gonna be on air. Christopher’s work therefor is truly important as he is archiving and publishing it before it’s lost in the dust.

Why is a white American middle class guy so addicted to foreign music?
Why does he spend all his money travelling through the desert, getting different diseases, struggling with language problems and cope with politics?

And what is it all about the ,cellphone music‘ scene?

These questions will lead us through our project. Therefore we want to show Christopher, how he travels through the Sahel, meeting his artists and also listen to their stories. The many different ways to discover new music, from the deep dusty archives to field recordings.

We want to travel to the Sahel, follow Chris on a European tour, he has planned with one of his artists – Mdou Moctar, and visit him at home in Portland, Oregon.

What we need is your financial support to make this film possible!