Tal National are from Niamey, the capital of the land locked West African country of Niger. The band formed in 2000, starting first as a hobby for 3 friends, and by 2009 established themselves as the most popular and successful band in Niger. Other Nigerien bands have made a bigger splash outside of Niger (ie Bombino), but within the borders of home – Tal National are the superstars.
In this joyously hypnotic, highly unique contribution to West African guitar music, with its lightening fast rhythms and rotating cast of vocalists, can be heard the history of Niger as a cultural crossroads along ancient trade routes. Collected within the former French colony can be found Songhai, Fulani, Hausa, and Tuareg populations, all of whom are represented in Tal National’s members. In the music we hear the rolling 12/8 rhythms in the Hausa’s Fuji percussion, the pensive aridity of the Tuareg’s assouf or “blues,” and the exquisite “griot guitar” of Mali’s Songhai, all delivered with virtuoso precision and unrelenting energy.
On stage Tal National perform with six musicians, but because of their rigorous performance schedule there might be up to thirteen members at any one time. At shows, musicians regularly change places midway through songs (including the amazing sight of drummers swapping without missing a beat). On some nights the band might split up to play two gigs simultaneously. With the large cast of players, it’s easier to compare the band to a sports team than anything else. Their concert material combines original songs with new arrangements of West African folk songs, themes of which deal with love, tolerance, peace, feminine beauty, and the woman’s physical dance expression based on traditional African rhythms.
Their discography starts with their first album Apokte in 2006. Due to rudimentary sound quality, the album couldn’t compete with successful artists on radio. Understanding the need to improve their sound quality as being crucial to finding success, they recruited audio engineer Jamie Carter from Chicago USA. They flew him to Niamey for a recording session and the result was the hugely popular “A-Na Waya” in 2009. This album firmly established Tal National as the premier band in Niamey.
In January 2011 the band brought Carter back to Niamey to record what would become ‘Kaani’. Continuing the trend, ‘Kaani’ was hugely successful in Niger when it was released in 2012. With that album the band caught the attention of acclaimed independent record label FatCat Records. The band signed on and FatCat released Kaani internationally in 2013. Tal National toured the USA in 2013 to support the release of Kaani.
The next international album ‘Zoy Zoy’ was released in 2015 (again by FatCat Records) . Two USA tours followed, as well as tours of the UK, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Denmark.
Tal National’s most recent album “Tantabara” was released internationally in 2018. Touring in support of this album included performances in the USA, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands and the UK.
With all three international releases, music critics have been impressed by the vibrancy and originality of Tal National. The band was included in a New York Times “10 Best Albums of 2013” list, and were featured on the cover of the prominent UK music magazine fRoots in the November 2015 issue. Touring highlights have included performances at the WOMAD UK festival (twice), Roskilde (Denmark), Big Ears (USA), Welcome to the Village (Netherlands) and Wickerman (Scotland).