Music from Saharan Cellphones


About a year ago musicologist/blogger Chris Kirkley released two intriguing cassette mixtapes of music from western Africa. Music from Saharan Cellphones Volume I & II offered a glance into the mobile phone phenomenon in the Malian town of Kidal. In ‘the quintessential desert crossroad’, Kirkley witnessed how locals traded and played music using mobile phones and bluetooth technology. He decided to collect these random and mysterious/badly tagged MP3s via exchanges and put together a mixtape, initially released as a cassette. The resulting compilations are a wonderfully strange mix of music from western Africa and beyond. The cassette was inevitably re-ripped to MP3 and released on the internet. So, continuing with the sharing spirit of the Saharan cellphones, you can now download both mixtapes for free – Volume I & Volume II.

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The project’s next step is to release the music officially, allowing for payment to the painstakingly tracked-down original artists. Kirkley’s Kickstarter funded release, which will include a Vinyl pressing with linear notes on the artists, has been successfully backed (150%!) so looks set to be released in the near future. You can still back the project/pre-order a copy here. To add to this, there is a planned remix project and ‘rumors of a mysterious 7″’!

Kirkley was also the guest on DJ/Rupture’s Mudd Up! Podcast this week playing tracks from the compilations and more recent discoveries including field recordings from Mauritanian weddings and some ‘Hausa’ music, a Bollywood-esque style from Northern Nigeria/Niger and Sudan. Keep an eye on the SahelSounds blog for more updates.

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