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Les Filles are all from Illighadad, a secluded commune in central Niger, far off in the scrubland deserts at the edge of the Sahara. The sound that defines rural Niger is a music known as “tende.” Like the environs, tende music is a testament to wealth in simplicity, with sparse compositions built from a few elements, vocals, handclaps, and percussion. Songs speak of the village, of love, and of praise for ancestors. It is a music form dominated by women but that’s been eclipsed by the guitar music played by men in more recent years.
Fatou Seidi Ghali, lead vocalist and performer of Les Filles, is one of the only Tuareg female guitarists in Niger. Sneaking away with her older brother’s guitar, she taught herself to play. With their music that makes use of the traditional drum and the pounding calabash Les Filles de Illighadad are reasserting the importance of tende and reclaiming the genre.