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MUSIC FOR SAHARAN CELLPHONES

Very cool project right here. An offshoot of Sahel Sounds‘ Music From Saharan Cellphones project, Gulls (whose EP ‘Boom Miami’ I covered here a few weeks back) has put together this compilation of remixes and reinterpretations of tunes from the deepest Sahara.

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If you’re not familiar with Music From Saharan Cellphones, the basic story is this: Chris Kirkley, of Sahel Sounds, spent months travelling around Mali and Mauritania, collecting MP3s distributed through a network of mobile phones, analagous to – but totally independent of – the internet. Obviously in the West, phones are used as an access point to the global internet, but here we’re talking about them as devices for storing and playing sound files which allow sharing via bluetooth and SD card when in physical proximity to one another. Distribution through the network is dependent on the physical movements of people, making it much slower and more locally variant than the global internet, but also able to deal with a very different set of challenges. Jaques Attali, in Noise, argues that music and sound is always the precursor to political and cultural change. In this musical network we’re seeing the beginning of the cell phone network imagined by Greg Egan in Zendegi, used by protesters to spread information in crowds by physical proximity without the possibility of the network being shut down by the powers that be since nobody is in control of it, or any part of it.

The anarchic way many things are happening in Africa makes it feel like the future is, in fact, happening in the mother continent. As one comment points out on this atricle at Sahel Sounds – down and out in the mp3 market – this stuff is so cyberpunk it’s unreal. It’s kind of unexpected to see it coming out of the desert in Africa, but really it’s perfectly natural that the head on collision of the home-made and the high-tech should emerge there.

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So, Sahel Sounds has been tapping into this network, extracting music and sharing it on the global internet with which those of us in the West are more familiar. With the Music For Saharan Cellphones project, Gulls and Boomarm Nation turn that on it’s head, with producers remixing, reinterpreting and reimagining these tunes, and then releasing them back into the Saharan wild via 30 SD cards which are being sent to Kidal, Mali, to be absorbed back into the cell phone network.

Luckily for anyone not reading this in the Sahara, as well as these 30 SD cards, the compilation has been released online, and you can check it out and grab it for free here:


Music For Saharan Cellphones by BOOMARM NATION

In addition, a limited edition 7” single of Mdou Moctar’s autotune masterpiece “Tahoultine” b/w Gulls remix, will be co-released by Boomarm Nation and Sahel Sounds in November 2011, followed by a 12″ LP of “Music from Saharan Cellphones” by Sahel Sounds. Until then you can grab vol 1 and 2 here:
Music From Saharan Cellphones vol 1
Music From Saharan Cellphones vol 2

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