Tendé from Niger

Posted January 28th, 2008 at 11:40 pm (UTC-4)

One of the great pleasures of working at the Voice of America is the letters, pictures and cassettes that our listeners send us from throughout Africa (in the future I’ll devote a post to some of the home-recordings we have received). Last week I saw this beautiful snapshot of a listener from northern Niger on a colleague’s desk: on the backside he wrote “I’ve got two radios in case one break’s down.”

My first thought was, “I wonder what kind of music he listens to on his two radios?” This train of thought led to me to rummage through a box of cassettes from Niger and pull out a few of my favorites to share with you.

Abdou Salam is one of Niger’s best-selling artists: he is also popular in Northern Nigeria. He was born on June 6, 1976 in Tahoua (which is 300 miles northeast of the capital, Niamey). He grew up next to a military camp and his earliest musical memories are of listening to the camp’s guards sing and play music during their idle hours. Day after day he would return and listen, spellbound.

Abdou started his first group in 1991, when he was still a student at the University of Niamey. Determined to become a professional musician, he traveled to Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, where he studied music at the Ecole Nationale Supérieur, Arts et Lettres. In the mid-1990s he returned to Niamey and started his group Les Tendistes, who take their name from the Tuareg drum and rhythm of the same name, the Tendé. Abdou and his Tendistes have released six cassettes and are getting ready to put out their seventh. Abdou composes all the group’s songs, and also plays the guitar, bass, Tendé, and the Gouroumi (a four-string Hausa lute). He sings in Hausa, Beri-Beri, Peulh, Tamachek, Toubou (his native language), and French.

In ‘Takayallah’, which is a great example of Abdou’s Tendé rhythm, he sings of the impatience of children in his village, who beg their parents to let them dance to the Tendé beat in the village square with their elders.

This next track is a response to one of his earlier hits. In ‘An Marmaké’ he sings of all the ways in which women must serve men: the earlier hit described the ways in which men served women. It all evens out in the end; men and women depend on each other.

One of my favorite groups from Niger is Boureima Disco and his Super Bonkaney. The bandleader, singer, and primary composer, Boureima, was also born in Tahoua, on July 9, 1967. He made his musical début when he was still a schoolboy, beating traditional rhythms on empty cans to get his classmates to dance. His first musical passion, however, was Hindi film music. He would sing his favorite theme songs over and again. He started singing professionally in the late 1990s, when he joined Eric Pancho’s group, a popular singer at the time. Boureima started the Super Bonkaney at the beginning of this decade.

The group has released two cassettes and is very active on Niger’s wedding scene. In 2004 Boureima took the Super Bonkaney on their first international tour, performing throughout Ghana and the Cote D’Ivoire. Asked how he got the ‘Disco’ suffix attached to his name, Boureima explained, that before he started singing, he was known throughout Niger for his dancing skills. Whenever he would walk into a party the crowd would call out ‘Boureima Disco!’

These two tracks are off ‘Gaham Bani’, the Super Bonkaney’s first cassette. The first cut on the cassette is ‘Bassitray’, in which Boureima praises, in the Zarma language, the solidarity that exists between ethnic groups in Niger. He sings about the ties between the Kanori and the Fulani, the Songhai and the Zarma, the Yoruba and the Gobi-rawa. Enjoy the funky drum machine and wicked guitar playing of Mamoudou Seyni!!

In ‘Guimbiya’, Boureima sings, again in the Zarma language, of women who have the courage of warriors. Make sure you listen until the end, the band kick into a wonderful double-time groove to ride out the song!!! A tough rhythm!!

I’ve saved the best for last. As their name indicates, the ‘Tasko d’Agadez’ is from the town of Agadez in northern Niger. They have released two cassettes, and recorded 96 songs that are in the ORTN (Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision du Niger) archives. They are frequently invited to play at weddings, baptisms throughout Niger, and especially by age-grade associations (called ‘Fada’). All of the songs are composed by Sani Mani aka ‘Anto’, who was born in the town of Maradi, in 1960. He writes the songs and then works out the arrangements with the rest of the group.

The song ‘Kaka Tare’, sung in Hausa, praises the affectionate relationships that exist between grandparents and grandchildren in Niger.

The next track ‘Matan Kasa’ is more politically engaged. The ‘Tasko d’Agadez’ call on the women of Niger to become more politically involved. They sing; ‘during electoral campaigns all the candidates fight for our votes. Women of Niger, have you noticed? Once they are elected, these politicians do not appoint women to serve in their governments. We are tired, we have to organize to make sure we are not taken for granted.’

This final track is an untitled guitar romp hidden at the end of the A-side of the cassette. The group’s Tendé beat whips the guitarist Ahamed Maman into shape. This song is a tribute to Ibrahim Oumarou, the sultan of Agadez.

All of the above artists are on the traditional end of the Nigerien musical spectrum. The country has also got an vibrant hip-hop scene. If you enjoyed these tracks, stay tuned for a future post featuring my favorite roots hip-hop from Niger.

18 responses to “Tendé from Niger”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is wonderful! It is both expert and fun…..and brings so much to us. Thanks for the warmth and music Matthew! Joan

  2. Anonymous says:

    Another amazing set of posts. I find myself refreshing my browser in the desperate hope that new posts will continue to proliferate. Looking forward to the hip hop, and curious to see how much of it is in Hausa. Also curious to know if you know anything about the scores for Nollywood video films, ie is there as prolfic an output of the scores as there is of the actual films? No reason you should have the answer to this, but considering your output in just a few weeks it strikes me that you might know something….

  3. Anonymous says:

    Pol Sapene… as far as i remember quite a bit of the hip-hop is in Hausa. I try as hard as I can to keep up with current Nigerian music. We have got a lot of faithful listeners in Nigeria and I am always anxious to please them. My impression is that a lot of the current hit songs, at least in Hausa and Yoruba, are from films (like the bollywood phenomenon). I am not so sure, though, if this is true for the music from Southeastern Nigeria- maybe John from likembe.blogspot.com can help answer this question?

  4. Anonymous says:

    As regards Nollywood video soundtracks – neither my wife nor I have been to Nigeria in the last 10 years, and I’m not as on top of the current Nigerian scene as I should be, so I can’t say for sure.

    I once Googled “Hausa Music” and came up with a very informative academic article on the relationships between Nollywood, Bollywood and Hausa hip-hop. I just tried doing that again to come up with a URL for you, but no luck. I think it was a PDF file, if you want to try looking it up yourself.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Matthew, thank you so much for making me discover this wonderful Tendé music. Winting for the next post !

  6. Anonymous says:

    Matthew, thanks for these fantastic tracks, and for making music available from countries outside the african pop music canon – what’s next – the Central African Republic, Gabon, Chad?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks very much for your continuing interest. Zim… I am always curious about Africa’s lesser known musics. In the future I will do a post on music of the Central African Republic; we have got a few singles and a good number of cassettes. I am getting together some Ugandan 45s for the next post. Nice relaxed guitar shuffles.

  8. Anonymous says:

    People just to enlight you on some part that you did not get from this
    blog. Mathew said Niger not Nigeria. In Niger, we do not have Nollywood movies but we do sing in Hausa too. I hope you will try to see the difference between Niger and Nigeria. We are neighbor and brother but we would like to be recognize for who we are and not be mistaken for other country.
    Thanks you all.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Some side effects are quite beneficial! I’ve hardly visited this blog as the mailed links didn’t work. However, I’ve been here several times since the
    posting on Somalia and only now do I notice what a treasure this blog really is. Icw this posting, a friend gave me about a year ago a copy of an
    untitled CD by ‘Groupe Tasko D’Agadez’ with about 10 tracks incl. the 3 tracks here. As I like the so-called desert blues, I was enthouiastic right from
    the 1st song. Don’t know why, but sometime later the sound quality metamorphosed from good to appalling. I tried hard to find sth. by this band but
    to no avail. Outside the ‘well-trodden’ paths (Etran Finatawa, Mamar Kassey, Abdou Salam, Moussa Poussy, Saadou Bori…), I actually couldn’t find any
    Nigerien music. Hope artists like Tasko shall get more exposure soon and glad you up’ed these and many other jewels on this blog. Time and tent
    allowing, I’ll be bivouacking here more often. Thanks! … P.S. No guarantees, but the untitled track is called ‘Gajere’ in my copy.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Sannunku! Ina jin dadi waka kasar Niger sosai! Na gode kwarai!
    Thank you for posting this music, its a pleasure. But i would feel better to listen to it on my mp3player: its a pity that downloading is not possible.

    Best regards
    Malam Bala

  11. Anonymous says:

    I really enjoyed your African Music Treasures. I hope you can continue the service without any loss in the very near future.
    Do you have any opportunity for DJ’s also on African! Music?
    Good Luck!!!!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I just browsed the whole blog. Leaves me speechless. I just post my thanks on this page because it’s yet my favorite, as I’m quite a fan of Touareg and south saharian music. But the ones that did surprise me the most were maybe the Somalia (so many different styles), Malawi (great reggae tunes), and well all of them are just fine.
    I would say that your program deserves a much larger broadcasting area: not all fans of African music are on the continent itself. Is there a chance that it some day gets podcasted?

  13. Anonymous says:

    This is music in it s purest form.

    Just a pity CDs on such do not exist.
    Thank you Matthew.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Matthew,
    Two years ago i was in Agadez and bought a CD !!!
    I think it was orginally from cassette’s, sounds like Tasko d’Agadez.
    Great Touareg music.

  15. % says:

    Great info that you’ve provided people in this posting. I am going to look forward to your in that case posting.

  16. johnny rapid says:

    I need to to thank you for this very good read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you book-marked to look at new things you post…

  17. Maryam says:

    hi! please does anybody know how i can contact him(Abdou Salam)? thanks

  18. […] ostinatos, what I adore about Tendé music. Give me more. The mystery track is next level. Here’s more info on this […]



Heather Maxwell produces and hosts the award-winning radio program “Music Time in Africa” and is the African Music Editor for the Voice of America. Heather is an ethnomusicologist with Doctorate and Master’s degrees from Indiana University specializing in African Music. She is also an accomplished jazz and Afrojazz/Afrosoul vocalist and has been working, researching, and performing in Africa and the U.S. since 1987.

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