In 1964, when the Cuban government invited ten young people from Mali to offer them musical education, it marked the beginning of one of the most unlikely careers in music history. Thrilled by Latin American rhythms, the participants in the exchange program formed an ensemble called Maravillas de Mali, which, with its hybrid sound between pachanga, rumba and cha-cha, was a huge, instant success in Cuba and Mali. The Malian military coup, however, ended their career in 1968 almost as quickly as it had begun. When film producer Richard Minier reopened the story of Maravillas de Mali for a documentary, the last living member of the original band, Boncana Maïga, took up the thread of that era. After recording an EP in the Cuban Egrem Studios in 2018, he returned to the stage with an ensemble of West African and Cuban musicians.
Les Filles de Illighadad play what is sometimes referred to as the “desert blues” and what the daughters of the small Nigerian village of Illighadad themselves call “future Tuareg music.” They update the tende style with booming guitar riffs, call-and-response vocals and pounding percussion – and set an example in a male-dominated music scene. After a collection of songs recorded in a mobile studio in the desert was released in 2016, the group around Fatou Seidi Ghali went into a professional studio to record their 2017 album Eghass Malan. It’s a definitive, but definitely not the final musical statement of this unique project, whose hypnotic sound unfolds during international tours in intimate settings and on big stages alike.