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Khalab announces album alongside Malian refugee collective M’berra Ensemble

Hailing from the M’berra refugee camp, this Malian collective launches a collaboration with the Italian electro producer Khalab.

The M’berra Ensemble is a community of musicians bearing the same name as their refugee camp, which borders Mali and hosts around 50,000 people. This collective is made up of several Arab and Tuareg members who use music as a tool for solidarity. Several musicians from different groups have united, such as singer and guitarist Hamma Ag Awaissoune, who leads the Tuareg group Taflist, but also guitarist Mohamed Issa Ag Oumar, who is part of the group Imarhan Timbuktu. As for Aliou Ould Mohamed, a resident of Lernab, he said: “We are tired of playing other styles. I know how to do it, but I prefer to play Azawadian.” Elhaj Al Mohamed, from the group Tadjazt, also remains very attached to the traditional guitar, called tehardant in Tamasheq.

The aim of this collaboration is to restore the dignity of these musicians, while preserving their identity. Tinalbaraka Walet Alhassane explains: “The imzad (the violin) is part of the history of Kel-Tamasheq. When women play it, the goal is to bring joy and comfort to their men.” The album therefore seeks to relieve displaced and traumatized people by helping to support the humanitarian projects of Intersos, an Italian aid organization that works around the world to help victims of armed conflicts. This organization has also featured the Italian producer Khalab, who visited the M’berra camp in 2017. He insists on the importance of this album, which leaves room for the reflections of the refugees, in all their diversity: “There is not only one story to be told here.”

The artist is particularly known for his fusion of traditional African melodies, electronic music and jazz. Throughout his career as a DJ, he has consistently promoted African cultures, the sounds of which he has broadcasted on the Italian national network Rai Radio 2. He also collaborated with the Malian percussionist Baba Sissoko and with Shabaka Hutchings and Moses Boyd, both essential components of the new UK jazz scene. Khalab also engages in historical research on his projects, delving into the archives of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Brussels for his album Black Noise 2084, released in 2018. For M’bara, Khalab sought the support of ethnologist Barbara Fiore in order to better grasp the Tuareg traditions. Several Italian musicians also contribute to this new project, including the guitarist Adriano Viterbini and the drummer Tommaso Cappellato.

It marks a true bridge between the past and the present and the vinyl edition of this album is accompanied by photos of the musicians of the M’berra camp, taken by the French photographer Jean-Marc Caimi, who also visited in 2017.

Pre-order the album M’berra ahead of its April 23 release, via Real World Records.

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