Black Atlantic: Noura Mint Seymali
In the seaside Saharan country of Mauritania, Noura Mint Seymali was born into a Moorish griot dynasty, surrounded by the ecstatic sounds of this Arabic-influenced modal music. Her stepmother, Dimi Mint Abba, was one of Mauritania's most powerful singers, and when Seymali started writing songs and singing backup for her at age thirteen, her father, a composer, encouraged Seymali to experiment with tradition. On two hypnotic albums, Seymali, her guitarist husband Jeich Ould Chighaly, bassist Ousmane Touré, and drummer Matthew Tinari popularize Mauritania's traditional sounds into something rich and modern. They exchange electric guitar for tidinit (a four-stringed lute), and put drums and bass alongside the ardine, a calabash harp. Seymali's songs, pairing modern rhythms with traditional poetry and melodies, are a roadmap forward for Mauritanian music, little known on these shores.