The Sahara Series, which takes place at Thunderbird Cafe in Lawrenceville, features four concerts from major African musicians hailing from the countries of Mali and Niger. All of the 21 and up shows are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. The performers involved would normally be featured at the famed Festival of the Desert, held for a decade in northern Mali. However, that festival is now “in exile” due to the circumstances following the 2012 Tuareg rebellion which briefly proclaimed the independent nation of Azawad. In the aftermath, hardcore Islamist Ansar Al-Dine took over the region (supported by Al Qaida in the Maghreb) and attempted to impose sharia law, destroying Sufi shrines and priceless libraries in Timbuktu while banning music, alcohol and dancing, and oppressing women in the region. The French army came in and drove out the Islamists, and the region is now being patrolled by a U.N. force of African nations, but the danger remains.
Monday, September 16 at 8PM: ‘Caravan of Peace’
Mamadou Kelly – rising African blues guitarist from Niafunke, Mali and former member of Ali Farka Toure’s All-Stars.
Leila Gobi – Tuareg singer from Menaka, Mali who also plays guitar, djembe, balafon and tinde, singing in several languages including her native Tamashek.
Special guests includes Batamba.
Saturday, September 21 at 7PM: ‘International Blues Express’
Sidi Toure – Songhai guitarist of noble linage from Gao, Mali who blends Western folk and blues with trance-like African complexity. He has three albums out on respected American indie label Thrill Jockey (whose other artists include: Tortoise, Califone, Mouse on Mars, and Rob Mazurek).
Cedric Watson – Cajun and Creole fiddler and accordionist from Louisiana whose three albums as bandleader have all been nominated for Grammy Awards.
Thursday, October 3 at 8PM: Co-presented with Grey Area Productions and VIA Festival
Tal National – drawing on regional styles from highlife and soukous to Afrobeat and desert blues, they create original African rock, and have become the most popular band in their landlocked country of Niger, where they live in the capital Niamey. Their new album is out on UK indie label Fat Cat (Sigur Ros, Mum, No Age, Animal Collective, Frightened Rabbit, etc).
Note: ticket outlets for this event are Culture Shop and Dave’s [both South Side], Sound Cat, and 720 Records [Lawrenceville]
Wednesday, October 23 at 8PM: Next Generation of Tuareg Bluesmen
Terakraft – From northern Mali, their name means “caravan” in Tamashek. Leader
Diara was a founding member of desert-blues legends Tinariwen. Currently living in exile in Algeria, they represent the next generation of Tuareg bluesmen, including Diara’s nephews Sanou and Abdallah, and perform in their characteristic dress: blue robes and the tagelmust turban. Their albums have been released on World Village (which is part of Harmonia Mundi, and also released Tinariwen). They will perform with special guests Landmark Tongues (members of Centipede E’est and Gangwish)
Wednesday, November 27 at 8PM: Desert Guitar Hero
Bombino – Originally from Agadez, Niger, Omara “Bombino” Moctar spent his youth in Algeria and Libya due to the Tuareg-led rebellions in the Sahara. Returning to his hometown, he has since recorded albums for Sublime Frequencies and Cumbancha, and now his third album, Nomad, is out on prominent New Music label Nonesuch Records (Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, George Crumb, but the list of classical, pop and world icons is very long), produced by Grammy-winning Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. The album debuted at #1 on the World Music charts, cementing his reputation as a trailblazing desert guitar hero. Special guests Batamba will also perform.
Tickets can be purchased HERE as well as Sound Cat Records (Bloomfield), Caliban Books (Oakland), Acoustic Music Works (Squirrel Hill) and Dave’s Music Mine (South Side).