Les Filles De Illighadad: Eghass Malan

- Les Filles de Illighadad translates as "The Girls of Illighdad", a small village on the fringes of the Sahara Desert in Niger where they apparently have no running water or electricity. If naming your band after your gender and hometown seems somewhat generic, it's not in this case. Because not only do Les Filles come from an unlikely rock’n’roll destination, the fact they are Touareg women playing guitars is also radical.

The distinctive style of desert blues played by the nomadic Touareg people of the Sahara Desert has gained the world's attention over the last fifteen years, spearheaded by artists like Tinariwen and Bombino. But these acts have been even more male dominated than Western rock’n’roll. Fatou Seidi Ghali of Les Filles de Illighadad, who taught herself guitar by sneaking off with her brother's instrument, can honestly claim to be the first female Touareg rock musician.

Les Filles de Illighadad are musical trailblazers then, but what do they sound like? Eghass Malan is their second release, but the first recorded in a studio. Last year's self-titled record was created live under the Saharan sky. The music is similar to that of Tinariwen - hypnotic guitar lines revolving mostly around a single chord, polyrhythmic percussion, call-and-response vocals with that Arabic melodic sensibility.

Most of the songs are fairly laid back, though the opening, title track and middle track Jori certainly get the dance party going. A lot of the songs are apparently traditional folk songs adapted for guitar. The traditional style of music is known as "tende", named after the goatskin drum it was traditionally accompanied with. The other notable percussion instrument is the calabash, a large gourd which is sat floating in a tub of water and pounded with a stick to produce a bass drum-like sound.

As a gender pioneer and a radical blender of old and new musical styles, Fatou Seidi Ghali and her Les Filles deserve recognition. More than than that, however, this record is full of wonderful songs, beautiful fluid guitar playing, and the arrangement of minimal ingredients into a satisfying whole - a trick I assume a nomadic desert existence will teach you. I don't know how else to put it - Eghass Malan is a truly significant album.

- Andy Paine.

Album Details

Album Title: Eghass Malan
Artist: Les Filles De Illighadad
Record Label: (Sahel Sounds)