L'Orchestre National de Mauritanie

A Rare Mauritanian Gem From The Vaults Of Christopher Kirkley's Sahel Sounds

Late last week, with artists and labels worldwide already feeling the economic effects of COVID-19, Bandcamp decided to renounce its fee for a day and relay all revenue directly to the artists as a form of financial support. All day emails flooded our inbox, teasing new releases and vying for attention. This week, Bandcamp announced that the fundraising campaign had been a success: "On a typical Friday, fans buy about 47,000 items on Bandcamp, but this past Friday, fans bought nearly 800,000, or $4.3 million worth of music and merch. That’s more than 15 times our normal Friday, and at the peak, fans were buying 11 items per second." 

Great news, for a change, and we sincerely hope this wave of global solidarity and support for the arts continues. While sifting through loads of great music, we personally were overwhelmed by the amount of good releases and special pandemic deals available and found it extremely hard to decide, which artist or label to support. Until we received a message from Christopher Kirkley's amazing Sahel Sounds imprint, announcing that, on this occasion, the label would be offering all its Bandcamp releases "as pay-what-you-want-downloads for the day." Reminding us of one of the label's first releases from 2013 that we had been meaning to share for a while, so what better time than this?!

The release in question is actually two releases by L'Orchestre National de Mauritanie, led by Hadrami Ould Meidah. "Formed in 1968, Mauritania's National Orchestre was the official band of the post-colonial desert country [...] both musical group and ideological symbol – sharing many of the aspirations of the young country. To the Mauritanian classical music, with its rigid and complex modal system, the group unabashedly added electric guitars and brass sections. Traditional epics were adapted with contemporary sounds. Multi-lingual compositions honored the diverse ethnic groups throughout the country," the description reads.

The orchestra disbanded in 1975, shortly before the bloodless military coup of 1978 that ousted then president Moktar Ould Daddah and ultimately put an end to democracy. Military forces were ordered to destroy all documents related to the Daddah regime and eventually looted the radio archive, but a "heroic radio engineer" managed to salvage certain reels from the archive. Decades later, "working with Hadrami Ould Meidah, radio archivists and former members of the band," some of these recordings by L'Orchestre National de Mauritanie were made available by Sahel Sounds – a true blessing. 

You will be amazed by the soothing, bluesy, soulful and funky tapestry of sounds you will encounter on these super rare recordings that might even seamlessly blend into your everyday listening habits. We've been listening to these selections for days now and cannot get enough of these tunes. Minds and souls blown. You can stream/buy both releases via Bandcamp and/or watch the great companion video below. Either way, make sure you show Sahel Sounds and these artists your appreciation.

L'Orchestre National de Mauritanie are:
Hadrami Ould Meidah - vocals
Gils Koné - bass guitar
Ibrahim "Petit" Sall - guitar
Souleymane Ndiaye - vocals
Mohamed "Neyfara" Vall Ould Mahmoud - flute, trumpet
Boylil Ould Mbareck - trumpet
Sidaty Ould Saoud - vocals
Soukaba Ould Ngeizh - drums
Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mbaye
Ganne Coulibaly - bass
Saidou Bâ - hoddu