Recording Tal National in Niger has been an amazing experience. I recorded one album in 2008 and another in 2011. I can’t wait to go back!
The band leader met me in Chicago, and offered to fly me to Niamey to record his band. Although just about every detail was vague, I couldn’t pass up this chance. It ended up being better than I could of ever hoped for. The musicians in Tal National are some of the best that I’ve ever seen, and I found a lot of parallels between their approach dictated by necessity and my preferred aesthetic approach. Simply put, they were incredibly resourceful and made the best out of a tough situation.
The recordings took place in a run down recording studio in a government music complex. All of the existing gear was covered in dust, most of it didn’t work and the stuff that did work was operating at 50%. Along with a laptop and interface, I brought as many mics, cables, headphones (and on the second trip a small set of powered monitors) that the airline would allow without any extra fees.
The first day in the studio was spent running cables, troubleshooting a new problem about every 10 minutes and checking levels. The following days recording were intense, lonely (everybody spoke French, except for me) and very life affirming.
I mixed the albums in the US, corresponding with the band for revisions/tweaks over email (for the last album I counted 100 emails sent). I also made alternate versions of the songs with the “T-Pain” effect on the vocals, which is huge in Niamey. I the mastered the final album and sent the files to Niger where they duplicated them.