Tag Archives: Desert Blues

Gordon Koang and the Music in Exile Label Give Voice to Asylum Seekers

Gordon Koang

Photos by Michael Rees-Lightfoot

In person, Gordon Koang cuts a striking figure. He’s over six-feet tall, and his forehead bears six rows of scars marking the transition from childhood to adulthood that are traditional for men of the Neur tribe of South Sudan. Blind since birth, his eyes are hidden behind chunky, wraparound sunglasses. His smile is luminous, and he’s rarely without it.

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Album of the Day: Ahmed Ag Kaedy, “Akaline Kidal”

In 2018, Tuareg guitarist Ahmed Ag Kaedy recorded this devastating solo acoustic album on an eight-track cassette recorder in Portland, Oregon, with the help of Sahel Sounds owner-producer Christopher Kirkley. Akaline Kidal (“My Land, Kidal”) is Kaedy’s poetically couched lament for Kidal, his northern Mali hometown which was overrun by an alliance of Tuareg rebels and Islam extremists in 2012. In the aftermath, Kaedy, his bandmates in Amanar, and most of their friends and families abandoned Kidal.

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Album of the Day: Kel Assouf, “Black Tenere”

Black Tenere, by desert blues outfit Kel Assouf, is not so much a blistering record as it is a Saharan letterbomb: heavy guitars, fierce drumming, and hypnotically repetitive beats channeling the band’s anger in the face of injustice and colonialism. It’s their first effort since stripping down to a trio—the group’s members are Anana Harouna, the Belgium-based Nigerien founder, frontman, and guitarist, whose Kel Tamashek (a word preferred to the colonial moniker Tuareg) rock is the heart and soul of this band; drummer Olivier Penu, whose percussion is the propulsive force behind most of the tracks; and Tunisia-born keyboardist Sofyann Ben Youssef, the sonic mastermind who brought us the (North) Afrofuturistic marvel that is AMMAR 808.

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