L’Orchestre National de Mauritanie: L’Orchestre National de Mauritanie

L'Orchestre National de Mauritanie
L'Orchestre National de Mauritanie

The booklet essay is a short, selective, and sad recounting of the founding of modern Mauritania: creation followed by fall. A newly decolonised country needed an orchestre for the sake of its self-esteem, so President Moktar Ould Daddah knocked one together and sent the musicians to Ghana to get them up to scratch. The recordings are shaky, the trumpets are crusty, and the singer wobbles sometimes, though I like the way his voice heaves and collapses rhythmically on top of the lyrics in “La Femme Mauritanienne”. But as a document of a musical style being consciously forged, this album is deeply interesting. There are songs in a more straightforward popular Ghanaian style, and then there are songs that blend that bit of big-band pop with the patient desert sound that was and is native to Mauritania itself. A mingled song like “Chababa El-Bilad” must have given the new nation’s music the contemporary dignity that Daddah was hoping for in those early optimistic years, that time of progress, before they toppled him in a coup.

RATING 6 / 10