Tal National to Host All-Night, Afropop Party at the Schimmel Center Tonight

Here comes the judge. Yes, really. When Almeida - real name Issoufou Moumine - takes the stage with his guitar to lead Tal National through a five-hour set, he's moonlighting from his day job as a court judge.

Tal National are a bit different. They're the most popular group in the landlocked West African country of Niger, playing five nights a week, their shows lasting until daylight. A pressing of their most recent album sold out in little more than a day. In one of the poorest places in the world, everything they do is gold.

Formed by Almeida in 2000, Tal National spent six years honing its sound before making their first disc. In a country where so few can afford instruments, let alone studio time, the six-piece were a revelation. They drew from regional musical traditions, ranging from highlife to soukous, Afrobeat and even desert blues, but upped the intensity to create African rock.

"We call it Trad-Moderne," observes Almeida. "The sound combines the traditional and the modern. For example, some of our songs are modern interpretations of traditional songs."

Tal National
April 2, 2015 / 7:30 PM
Schimmel Center at Pace University is located at 3 Spruce Street between Park Row and Gold Street in downtown Manhattan
$19 (for ticket information: visit http://schimmel.pace.edu or call toll-free (866) 811-4111

Tal National's sound caught on immediately. Over the course of hundreds of gigs they honed their chops to razor sharpness. In fact, they were in such great demand that they had to draft in extra musicians to fulfil all the dates that were booked - in effect a second Tal National.

"We have six or seven musicians onstage at a time and we play continually from nine until two without a break," explains Almeida. "Musicians will take over from each other in the middle of a song and not miss a note." It's a remarkable spectacle, and it's still Tal National's visual trademark.

By the time they recorded their debut, Apokte, in 2006, they were guaranteed huge sales. For Almeida, it was the fulfilment of a dream. And it meant he was even busier.

"I teach music and drama at the SOS orphanage in Niamey, and as an ambassador I'm there to help the children. We don't have enough resources without donations. I've also been a judge for 20 years and I was a soccer player for some time, too. But more than anything I love music."

With the success of their debut, Tal National became the most-copied band in Niger.

"If we played a song we hadn't recorded, someone else would record a version and say it was theirs," Almeida says with a laugh. Everyone wanted to be them.

It wasn't just the sound that was better. The music was more confident, the mix of tradition and modernity complete and seamless. Talking drum facing off with spiky electric guitar, a dense bass pushing along the polyrhythms.

By 2011 Tal National were ready to record again. Once more they called on Carter, but this time they did things differently. They took over the long-abandoned Studio Maibianigarba in Naimey. The acoustics were ideal, and over two weeks Carter's gear caught their tighter sound. They'd play all day in the sweltering heat then leave to play for dancers all night.

Tal National keeps the party going, even when far from home. The intensity will be palpable as the band embarks on their second US tour, in support of their sophomore album, Zoy Zoy, out this spring.

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