Saturday, February 2, 2013

Ensemble Tartit ,Touaregs Kel Antessar~Amazagh

Music, song and poetry occupy an extremely large and fundamental place in Tuareg society.
In all the chaos that this century and its struggles have caused, they have remained a constant
mark of Tuareg identity. The Tuareg confederations have as a whole certain musical practices
in common, as well as the rules that guide them and the themes of the poems that are sung. 
Their music is characterised by the importance given to the voices and by a reduced number of instruments. Their social structure has traditionally had a great influence on their music; only women of the noble or the vassal tribes were once permitted to play the imzad . the small one-stringed fiddle that is the symbol of`Tuareg society, but now any female musician can teach the instrument to any woman who so desires.

 The imzad  is made from half a calabash or from a wooden bowl that is covered with goatskin and to which is also attached a neck that supports one string of horsehair. The imzad players were greatly renowned and could play many melodies, these evoking past events or the high deeds of a hero whose name they bore by the richness of their variations; they could also accompany a man’s singing and. on occasion, also displayed therapeutic powers by curing melancholy and apathy. Good players of the imzad are today becoming ever rarer and its repertoire is inexorably becoming smaller. Lala, the imzad player of the Tartit group is very often happy simply to accompany the other musicians and the songs, keeping herself out of the limelight.

The other instrument that is played exclusively by women is the tindé  made from a small wooden mortar that the women use to grind grains and which been covered with goatskin. The Kel Antessar have two types of tindé , a small (takabart) and a large (aghelaba), whose higher and lower sounds complement each other. Even although it had only until recently been the case that women from the servant tribes were the only ones authorized to play the tindé, now all women may play it. performing popular songs, making up new words to classic melodies to evoke the memory of a hero, encouraging the men, boasting of the women`s merits, or even giving themselves over to bewitching songs that imitate the rhythm of a camel's walk. The percussive sounds of the tindé and the soloist’s song are generally accompanied by a female chorus and by hand clapping on the off-beat.

The imzad and the tindé are both instruments that are well adapted to the nomad life.
 Both are made from everyday objects, a gourd and a mortar respectively, and they can once again be
used for their normal functions after their use as musical instruments. The Tuareg  do not,
however, have a monopoly on such instruments; the Haoussa and the Djerma have one-stringed fiddles that resemble the imzad and many of the African peoples use percussion instruments related to the tindé. 
The Tuaregs have therefore been either a constant influence on or have been  constantly influenced by the peoples that lived around them.
The traces of these intercultural borrowings are particularly visible with the Kel Antessar.
They were amongst the first Tuaregs to use the tehardant, the three-stringed lute that resemble

instruments used by the Songhais, the Peuls and the Moors. A permanent instrument, the tehardant consists of  a canoe-shaped wooden resonance chamber covered with goatskin. A neck supports three strings that were once horsehair but are now synthetic. The tehardunt is, together with their  flute, the only Tuareg instrument that is played by men. Amongst the Kel Antessan the tehardant is played by professional musicians, although this circumstance does not occur in the other confederations.
 Amano ag  Issa belongs to the aggou caste (plural: aggouten), one that corresponds to the griots of the settled peoples. The aggouten belong to the most extended part of the inhadan, the smith‘s or artisan’s caste. The majority of poets and raconteurs traditionally meet at the homes of the above; they are exempt from observing certain rules of behavior and they can skillfully handle criticism and provocation.
 They are sometimes distrusted and  often  feared, notably because of the power that as smiths they have over fire. The Tuaregs of other areas have also adopted not only the music and texts of the tehardunt but also the songs:of  the aggouten. satirical and critical of` the powers that be; it is now therefore possible to hear
 tehardant music also in Gao and in Niamey.

Certain pieces played by the Tartit group mingle the sound of the tehardant and the  tindé with  the voice of 
a male or female soloist, with Amano’s commentaries and with a female chorus.
Such pieces are played on festive occasions such as marriages, children’s ceremonies, various
tributes, and also in honour of a woman who has just divorced. The men and women dance seated cross legged opposite each other, moving and twisting their arms and their hands, playing with glances and being free with their smiles. The music provided by the tehardant and the imzad that now supports the tales describing historical incidents will later also be performed in circumstances that will inspire more gravity and calm during assemblies or talks.

The Tartit group presented Tuareg music from Mali for the first time in Europe during the
festival Wir da Femmes in Liege, Belgium in December 1995. The music that they presented at that time was, however, only a part of the rich repertoire of the Kel Antessar and of the Tuaregs in general.
 This patrimony in perpetual change, as the introduction to the tehardant has shown, is today menaced in part.
The Tuaregs are living through one of the most tragic periods of their history, with droughts,
wars, exodus and exile, settlement, refugee camps and shanty towns, "Will they ever be able to
find their own path again without either losing their reason or the rhythm of their rightness“,
asked the French ethnomusicologist Bernard Lorta-Jacob....
from the notes

I have expressed my admiration for the magical ensemble of Tartit in the past,
I will do it  one more time.
let's listen to them  in their first and best recording so far (just imho)

many thanks to ibn chaaba
photos of Tartit by awel haouati


* * *
!superb early-Tartit!


  1. This is brilliant. Thank you, Nauma, for this and for everything. -- Andrea

  2. Please, Nauma, can you repost it?

  3. Recently discovered i'm in love with Touareg people !
    Eventually can you repost this ?
    Thanx anyway !
    Great Blog ! Keep on !

    <3 Love from Italy

    1. Thanx nauma!
      All the best for upcoming new year!

      <3 Love from Italy

  4. Hhello can you upload again? the file doesn't exist. Thank you