Another routine evening, we assemble inside Ahmed’s compound of chest high mud walls, sitting on the light mats thrown down in the dusty yard. Two or three guitars are picked up and traded around, the flickering light of the fire just barely bright enough to make out the shadowy figures – who all remain relatively silent in the breaks between songs. Silent, except for my persistent questions, which they’ve become accustomed to: “Who wrote that song? What’s that called? Where is that from?”
In the regional musical scene there is a strong surviving folk tradition. While music may occupy a place in recorded and played back form, songs are still learned and collected by traveling musicians. Incidentally, the songs have their own stories – how they were learned, where they were learned, and then the tales of the songs themselves: their creators and the stories behind them. Often tragic, or near tragic, as the musician is forced to leave his craft for love or family, these common themes are as important as the song itself.
The following recordings are from a guitarist known as “Bebe” – a childhood nickname that stuck with him. Like many of the young Tamashek, he spent his youth in exile and his later years traveling about the desert regions of Algeria, Mali, and Libya, in the nouvelle-ishumar existence.
“N ca, n ca, ca ces pour uh, le, ce pour dugah dugah…c’est un noir, dugaduga s’appelle, joue le guitar la les arabes la…abodit…il e fou, le tip que joue le morsel la, il e fue! Il e fue, c’est un fou, mais il joue. Walahi je te jue. Nooo, dugaduga? Il e forte. Il joue bien! Il e son group.”
“And this, and this, this here is for, this is for Dugah Dugah…he’s a black, Duga Duga he’s called, plays the guitar of the Arabs there…abodit…he’s crazy, this guy that plays the song, he’s crazy! He’s crazy, he’s crazy but he plays. I swear to God he plays. Noooo, Duga Duga? He’s strong. He play’s good! Him and his group!”