In February 2015, a recording session with legendary Super Onze was staged by Horst Timmers and Arnaud Contreras, in the yard of the Sleeping Camel hostel, Bamako, Mali.

For hours, the members played with fervor, and the dancers Ousmane Yattara and Fatoumata Sarre invited friends, fans and guests of the hostel, to share the trance. 

Super Onze de Gao are undoubtedly one of the main modern ambassadors of takamba. Created in 1979 by Haziz Touré, Assalya Samake and Agita Moussa Maïga, Super Onze renewed this music which roots trace back to 15th century in Songhaï Empire and its cultural and commercial capital, Gao.

The tracklist opens with of Super Onze's anthem "Super Onze", followed by improvisations to invite to the dance on their standards and tunes that were never recorded before.

According to the legend, the history of takamba starts in the village of Temera, between Timbuktu and Gourem, where a Tamasheq master and its griot set up their camp one day. When hearing the tehardent, Songhaï villagers came to the men. Fascinated by the beauty of one of the Songhaï women, the master gave her is hand. His griot said to her “takamba”, meaning “take his hand”.

Until the 1960s, takamba was a celebration music, played during social and religious events. For men and women, takamba dance was also an opportunity for meeting and sharing subtly charming gestures. The dance was then practiced being seated, and singers were only supported by the tehardent and hand clapping as percussion.
From the 1970's, takamba evolved through a new generation of Tamasheq and Songhaï musicians, towards its current popular practice. The usual takamba group was then composed of two n’goni, one solo and one bass, calabash, one singer and dancers.
Not only takamba is practiced in its natal region, but also in Bamako and in any region or neighboring country where songhay and tamasheq communities circulate (Mali, Niger, Algeria, Burkina - Faso). Although musicians from the North of Mali have always travelled back and forth from Gao, Timbuktu and Bamako, their settling in the capital is more and more important as a consequence to the crisis in the North of Mali.

During the jihadist invasion in 2012, many musicians from Super Onze had lost their sound equipments and instruments, leading them to exile. Currently, songhoy weddings in Bamako are privileged time when amplified sound of takamba n’gonis can be heard. As such, this recording is a rare opportunity to hear takamba made by Super Onze, outside of Mali.

Yehia Mbala Samaké, the current leader of Super Onze, truly revolutionized the style of n’goni playing, by composing, improvising and electrifying his instrument. In the beginning of the 20th century the western part of the world became aware of takamba to spread internationaly after the success of Super Onze at The Festival au Désert, Mali. Invited at the third edition in 2003, their performance raised the enthusiasm of many musicians such as Justin Adams and Robert Plant. Dutch DJ/Producer Horst Timmers aka mps Pilot, witnessed the concert and really allowed the group to make its name in Europe. 

Super Onze are: Yehia Mballa Samaké (ngoni), Assaraidou Samaké (ngoni), ZerenaMaiga (vocals), Aliou Saloum Yattara (calabash), Cola Toure (calabash), Fatoumata Sarre (dance) and Ousmane Yattara (dance). 


Recorded by Horst Timmers and Arnaud Contreras
Cover photo by Arnaud Contreras
Liner notes by Caroline Trouillet
Mastered and produced by Horst Timmers
Label: Two Speakers | TWO 006

Published 4/05/2016

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