When: Mon., July 14, 6:30 p.m. 2014
Noura Mint Seymali is a stepdaughter to Mauritanian singer Dimi Mint Abba and once worked as her backing vocalist, but she seems intent on distinguishing herself from the late Diva of the Desert. She’s developed her own take on the sound of her homeland, adding Ousmane Touré’s electric bass and Matthew Tinari’s kit drumming to the sparse, hypnotic patterns of the Moorish griot tradition. On Seymali’s new album, Tzenni (Glitterbeat), which she recorded in New York, Dakar, and the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott, the rhythm section’s taut funk complements the snaking, flanged electric guitar of her husband, Jeiche Ould Chighaly (guitar has been part of Mauritanian music almost long enough to count as traditional). Her spell-casting singing—with its melismatic cries, baroque melodic elaborations, and neck-grabbing ululations—cuts easily through the sinewy grooves. Chighaly doubles on tidnite, a kind of regional lute, while Seymali adds spindly arpeggios on ardine, an amplified kora-like harp; at times the stuttering, clopping rhythms recall the insistent shuffle of West African calabash drumming, and Seymali’s staccato phrasing on “Soub Hanallah” borrows from Arabic tradition. Seymali and company made their local debut at last year’s World Music Festival, and when I saw them this past January in New York they’d achieved a synergistic marriage between the band’s entrancing music and the singer’s commanding presence. —Peter Margasak Noura Mint Seymali also performs at the Square Roots festival on Fri 7/11.