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 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.
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
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