Noura Mint Seymali: globalFEST 2014With her smoky-rich voice, this Mauritanian griot artist tips toward reggae, flamenco and rock along with traditional Sahelian tonalities and rhythms in a band that includes her husband.
Mauritanian artist Noura Mint Seymali performs at New York City's Webster Hall during globalFEST on Jan. 12, 2014.
Seymali's band includes her husband, guitarist and fellow griot Jeich Ould Chighaly.
During her shows, Seymali plays an amplified ardine: a harp-like stringed gourd instrument akin to the West African kora.
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Touareg guitar rock, desert blues: Whatever you call it, it's shorthand for a certain style from the Sahara that has triumphed at festivals and venues across Europe and North America, thanks to acts like Tinariwen and Bombino.
Most of the "desert blues" bands, though, hail from Mali, and it's much rarer to encounter musicians from the little-known nation of Mauritania. Tucked between Algeria, Mali, Senegal and the disputed Western Sahara territory, Mauritania has been ruled largely by military juntas since 1984, and is now under ongoing threat from Islamic terrorist groups operating in the region. Mauritania provides an important cultural bridge between Arabic and Berber North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.
Vocalist Noura Mint Seymali's music exemplifies not just those crosscurrents, but larger, global pop-culture tropes as well: With her smoky-rich voice, this griot artist tips toward reggae, flamenco and rock along with traditional Sahelian tonalities and rhythms in a band that includes her husband, guitarist (and fellow griot) Jeich Ould Chighaly. Though Seymali is still a newcomer to American audiences, she won't likely be an unknown for long.