Gearing up for their third album for FatCat, Tal National look back on a fertile period spent further honing their sound and touring the US several times - leaving audiences sweaty and stunned time after time. They've laid down incredible sets at WOMAD and Roskilde, bringing the same intensity and jubilance to the festival set as they would a crammed club, converting the staunchest wallflower into a dancer for the night. At their core, that’s Tal National's intent, to make the people dance. Performances at their Niamey nightclub (yes they operate their own nightclub) are regularly raucous 5-hour non-stop dance parties for 300 people a night. With Tantabara the band continues their ongoing quest to translate that energy to tape, bottling the party for personal use.
The grooves are the backbone of the album, and the intent is to create a trance-state that overwhelms conscious thought and lets the listener be surrounded by the energy and emotion of Tal National. Brimming with the band’s complex, intense spirit, the album is a continuation of the balance of tradition and innovation that have driven their previous albums. It’s a joyous celebration and euphoric epiphany all in one complex package. We'd expect nothing less at this point from Tal National.
When the NY Times placed Tal National's Kaani on their year-end Top 10 list, the Culture Minister of Niger organized a televised ceremony to honor the band. But it didn't stop there. The Guardian, The Independent, Mojo, Vice, The Wire, The Financial Times, Chicago Reader and others all sang exuberant praises. NPR, KEXP and WBEZ hosted live sessions. What they all recognized was the band's entirely new approach to West African music - that Tal National is a rock band.
Well, sort of.
The songs on Zoy Zoy are a mix of traditionals and originals, and they are intense. They are extraordinarily sophisticated. The band speak French, but use the expression "very rock and roll" quite seriously, implying their awareness that the loud guitars and bewildering rhythmic complexity separates them from their peers. They are proud that their members represent the different cultural groups of Niger, some of which haven't always been on the best of terms (the group includes Tuareg, Hausa, Fulani, and Zarma). Still, they are aware that Western ears may not fully grasp their self-proclaimed "rock" label, and we sure don't know many rock bands that keep folks dancing in a trance-like state for 5 hours at a time.