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Desert Blues Back In Bloomington With Rural, Female Perspective

Les Filles de Illighadad plays Reverberation Vinyl Monday night.
Les Filles de Illighadad
Les Filles de Illighadad plays Reverberation Vinyl Monday night.

This week wasn’t the first, tenth, or maybe the hundredth time Reverberation Vinyl owner John Anderson was spinning what’s become known as Desert Blues on the turntable in his Bloomington store.

But it’s the first we recall where the band was all female. Or even partly.

Anderson is bringing in Les Filles de Illighadad for a Monday night performance at Reverberation Vinyl. The three women in the band are from Niger, the same country that Mdou Moctar calls home base, though they hail from a more rural area than Moctar, who Anderson has had twice in his store.

“Illighadad is the name of their small town,” said Anderson. “It’s closer to the border region of Mali, so it’s a little bit of a different flavor, but same general style. Fatou, the leader of the band was the first and one of the only female guitarists of the region, so she’s a groundbreaker in a lot of ways.”

That difference party comes from the tende, a goat-skinned topped drum made from mortar native to her region. It’s also the name of the music associated with it, among the Tuareg people.

“That style of tende is what she’ll play when they’re in town,” said Anderson. “It’s recognizable as being from that region, but it’s definitely a different flavor than Mdou Moctar. It’s not quite as electric-rock based, though she can and does play plugged-in.”

Click play below to hear John Anderson talk about and feature songs from two releases by Les Filles de Illighadad.  

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.