Omara “Bombino” Moctar is an internationally acclaimed Tuareg guitarist and singer-songwriter from Agadez, Niger. His music frequently addresses Tuareg geopolitical concerns and is sung in the Tuareg language of Tamashek. Bombino is the subject of the documentary film Agadez, the Music and the Rebellion.
Hasna El Bécharia is extraordinary. She is still the only woman in the Maghreb to play gnawi music, a ceremonial beat that has remained an exclusively male preserve since the animist beliefs of the Bilad es-Sudan, (in Arabic, the Land of the Blacks – today’s Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Niger and Chad) encountered the monotheist faith of Islam from across the desert. Her choice has exposed her to a great deal of rejection and sarcasm, but Hasna’s mind and soul are irrevocably bound up with the mystic trance music learnt from her father, a pious man who was himself a maâllem or master of gnawi (the plural of gnawa) syncretism, a black Sufism forged by the descendants of sub-Saharan slaves in White Africa, also called diwan in East Algeria and stambali in Tunisia. Here is her song “Hakmet Lakdar”