Recently, I posted two out-of-print volumes of The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music for download. Both volumes cover African music, and my initial search for them was prompted by my interest in Group Inerane, a Taureg band from Niger. Group Inerane’s music, at least to my ears, sounds like the perfect mix of garage-rock energy and Eastern-influenced drones, a sound that so many psychedelic-garage bands have been seeking since the mid-1960s. The stuttering rhythm of the drumming on their second album, Guitars from Agadez, Vol. III (2010), drives the swirling, droning guitar lines and chanted lyrics, mixed with excited, female ululations, to a level of sloppy perfection unattained by the more popular Malinese Taureg group Tinariwen. The drums provide much of the garage-rock attributes I associate with Group Inerane.
Group Inerane, “Telalit” (from Guitars from Agadez, Vol. III, 2010)
Nonetheless, the music quite obviously draws inspiration and influence from traditional African music of the Southern Sahara. As such, The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music, Vol. II: French Africa provides some interesting comparisons. To start with basics, both “Music for Camel Tournament” and “Music for a Camel Tournament” were performed by Taureg peoples in the Hoggar region of what is now southern Algeria. Both these tracks, recorded in 1948, find resonance in Group Inerane’s music in their off-kilter rhythms and drone-like vocals.
“Music For Camel Tournament” (Hoggar, Sahara Desert, 1948)
“Music For a Camel Tournament” (Hoggar, Sahara Desert, 1948)
The recording from Vol. II that most closely resembles the music of Group Inerane, however, is “Song of Religious Possession” from the Jerma Tribe of Niger. The droning violin lines and chanted male vocals, accompanied by chattering percussion, provides an idea of what an acoustic, pre-guitar version of Group Inerane might have sounded like. The Jerma Tribe (also spelled Germa or Garama) is a Berber tribe from southern Libya related to the Taureg tribes of the same region. This recording, however, was made in south-western Niger in 1950, making the tribe in this recording a Berber tribe related to the Taureg people living in Niger.
“Song of Religious Possession” (Jerma Tribe, Niger Territory, 1950)
Considering that Group Inerane are Taureg Berbers from Niger, the similarities in “Song of Religious Possession” and a track like “Telalit” are certainly no mistake. Yet, rather than existing merely as a testament to the durability and strength of these musical traditions, Group Inerane’s music is a demonstration of the global interconnectedness, and significance, of their region and culture. Though Group Inerane celebrates their local culture by performing a style of music derived from the traditional music of the region, they also celebrate their culture’s place in the larger world by incorporating features of North American music, specifically, garage-rock. (As such, the music of Group Inerane perfectly fits Douglas Reichert Powell’s definition of Critical Regionalism.)
As a way of closing, check out this excellent live video of Group Inerane performing “Ano Nagarus.” If you haven’t picked up Volumes II and X of The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music, you can find them here.
Group Inerane, “Ano Nargus”