(at Baltimore Avenue)
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Noura Mint Seymali is a nationally beloved star and one of Mauritania’s foremost musical emissaries. The daughter of two of Mauritania’s most famous musicians, Noura Mint Seymali carries her family’s legacy forward as one of the most adventurous young artists of a culture at the meeting point of sounds from across the Sahara, the Magreb, and West Africa.
Born into a prominent line of Moorish griots, Noura began her career at age 13 as a supporting vocalist with her step-mother, the legendary Dimi Mint Abba. Trained in instrumental technique by her grandmother, Mounina, Noura mastered the ardine, a 9-string harp reserved only for women. Seymali Ould Ahmed Vall, Noura’s father, was an influential scholar and composer who studied Arab classical music in Iraq, devised the first system for Moorish melodic notation, adapted the national anthem, and composed many works popularized by his wife, Dimi and sparked her compositional instincts,
Fueled by the exploratory sound of her husband Jeiche Ould Chighaly’s emotive psych guitar lines, Noura and Jeiche formed their first “fusion” band in 2004. Jeiche, a master of the tidinit (aka. ngoni, xalam), brings the force of yet another important line of Moorish griot to bear, translating the tidinit’s intricate phrasing to a modified electric guitar with heroic effect. His unique sound, mirroring vocal lines and then refracting their melodies into the ether, was born out of years presiding over wedding ceremonies, directing the dance often as the sole melodic instrument. In addition to his work with Noura, Jeiche remains one of Nouakchott’s most sought after guitarists for traditional ceremonies.
After two albums – Tarabe (2006) & El Howl (2010) – released locally in Mauritania and years of experimentation adapting Moorish music to various pop formations, Noura Mint Seymali’s current band is a concise return to the roots, a light formation led by the “azawan,” a word in Hassaniya that refers to the collective ensemble of traditional instruments; the ardine, tidinit, guitar. Backed by a declarative, funk-speaking rhythm section, composed of Ousmane Touré (bass) and Matthew Tinari (drums), the band has made a formidable debut on the international stage, releasing two EPs – Azawan (2012) & Azawan II (2013) – and touring widely. The band’s first full-length album for the international market – TZENNI – is set for release via Gliiterbeat Records on June 20, 2014 and to be followed by an extensive North American tour.
Though performances at events like globalFEST (USA), Festival-au-Desert (Mali), Hayy Festival (Egypt), Jeux de Francophonie (France) and Festival Timitar (Morocco) and collaborations with artists like Tinariwen, Bassekou Kouyaté, and Baaba Maal, the band is actively exposing Mauritanian roots music to the world. In a rare merger of cultural authority and experimental prowess, Noura Mint Seymali applies the ancient musical traditions of the griot with a savvy aesthetic engagement in our contemporary moment, emerging as a powerful voice at nexus of a changing Africa.