Release Date: Apr 13, 2015
Record label: FatCat Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, International, West African, African Traditions, Afro-Pop, Afro-beat, Nigerian
After breaking onto the international stage with their 2013 release Kaani, West African combo Tal National follow up with the dazzlingly sophisticated Zoy Zoy. Based in Niamey, the capital of Niger, Tal National blend an array of styles like highlife, Songhai, Afro-beat, and desert blues into their music, ultimately transcending traditions and flashing the kind of intense musicianship only achieved by those who gig every night for hours on end, which is purportedly the norm for this gifted band. Although they have existed since 2000, they had yet to release a record outside of their home country before British label FatCat Records signed them in 2013.
Since forming in 2000, Tal National have been on a quest to make it known to the world that Niger is not in fact Nigeria. Besides everything else, musically, the land-locked Sahelian nation never went through the same kind of cosmopolitan musical explosion that many other West African nations did in the 1960s post-independence era. Only around the turn of the century have some Nigerien artists broken into the international market, including Mamar Kassey and Tuareg groups like Etran Finatawa or Bombino.
Pretty portents of sorrow fill “Kathryn Calder,” the self-titled album by the singer who is best known as the modest team player supplying harmony vocals in the New Pornographers. Her own albums — this is the third and most transparent — reveal grander structures and a singular perspective ….
Tal National's sound fabric on new album Zoy Zoy is intricate and colourful. The music turns in wild and unexpected directions as psychedelic hues emerge and patterns form that may not have previously seemed possible. Each line meticulously linked together, yet each time developed into something fresh, never quite unravelling altogether throughout the polyrhythmic duels between the musicians.
The term “world music,” ick — a marketer’s desperate pitch more than tangible genre, suggesting either Yankee provincialism (there’s Americana, British rock, and, um, The World) or the earnest intentions of Putumayo compilations and didgeridoo fans. If the latter sounds appealing, the comforting tones of Angelique Kidjo with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg await you (officially entitled Sings, out on 429 Records, it’s more easily recalled as Kidjo With Strings). But for those open to the possibilities of international pop and the rhythmic promise of one globe under a groove, the world beckons.