Ahl Nana

08/02/2023Belgian Reissue Collective Radio Martiko Shares Pioneering Saharan 'Desert Blues' Recordings

Ever since we chanced upon them during the early days of our online editorial, Belgium's Radio Martiko collective has been among our favourite reissue labels with an undeniable Midas touch for otherworldly global releases. Over the years, we've covered some of their work, but you best check their discography to grasp the full extent of their digging feats. Long story short, here comes their latest release, unearthing the "lost recordings that defined the modern sound of the Sahara."

Ahl Nana's "L'Orchestre National Mauritanien" is an absolutely captivating ten-track collection of modern-sounding Saharan folk music that "marks the birth of the genre [now commonly] known in the West as 'Desert Blues' or 'Desert Rock'." By introducing Western instruments like the electric guitar to the mix, Ahl Nana effectively "paved the way for [contemporary] artists [the likes of] Ali Farka Touré, Tinariwen, Mdou Moctar or Bombino." Though still active today, the group recorded just two LPs and several singles. "All these recordings took place in 1972 at the Boussiphone studios in Casablance. The records [however] were never distributed and therefore remained unknown for almost 50 years, until Radio Martiko discovered a batch of unsold factory stock a few years ago."

As such, this is the first time that these revolutionary recordings are presented to a wider audience, opening a musical gateway to the Sahara we had no idea existed. Repetitive in nature, inducing trance-like states with infectious call-and-response phrasings and mesmerising instrumentation, accompanied by propulsive percussive elements and zealous riffing, the music on Ahl Nana's "L'Orchestre National Mauritanien" is simply extraordinary and surprisingly well preserved, considering the original recordings took place over fifty years ago. What more to say than 'chapeau' to the Radio Martiko crew and a thank you for this Saharan jewel.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom