Ahmed Ag Kaedy, singer, composer and guitarist for the band Amanar de Kidal, which he founded in 2005, is a figurehead for a generation of musicians who feel a responsibility to communicate, via their conscious lyrics, the need for education and development with an underlying respect for tradition to their local audience. During the struggles between his community and the Malian Government which still endure to this day, he had enrolled in the Libyan Army under Gaddafis regime, but soon found out that the guitar was a more constructive weapon against the insanity and intolerance that reigns supreme in the area.
Like most of his brethren in the region, he refuses to be classified as "Tuareg" - a name that has been bequeathed on various nomadic communities in the Sahel from their Arab-speaking neighbours, the word derives from, "Tawariq" actually meaning "godforsaken". He defines himself as Kel Tamasheq - one who speaks the Tamasheq language. The city that gave the band its name, itself the capital of the Kidal Region, is situated in the heart of a mountainous massif called Adrar des Ifoghas, which reaches into Algeria. Its small size (barely 10,000 square kilometers) and population (25,000 inhabitants in 2009) belies its strategic importance in the turmoil that has torn Northern Mali apart in the past few decades. The series of events from 2010 onwards between warring factions vying for power in Kidal is too complicated to do justice to here. When the extremists took over his hometown, the suppression of music was one of the main points in their agenda. After being threatened with having his fingers cut off if he ever dared to play the guitar again, Ahmed Ag Kaedy decided to move to Bamako, where he still lives.
The original idea for this momentous project came from the documentary film "Mali Blues", which featured Fatoumata Diawara, Bassekou Kouyaté, Ahmed Ag Kaedy and Master Soumy talking about their experiences within the deep crisis that is tearing their homeland asunder, and playing a series of uplifting concerts to fight against the rising intolerance. The film`s director Lutz Gregor contacted Ingo Vaupel with the intent of setting up a concert in Berlin for Ahmed Ag Kaedy`s band Amanar de Kidal, rapper Master Soumy and Dony Brasco. After the resounding success of that evenings festivities,
Amanar then played a further date two days later with the Omniversal Earkestra, Berlin`s most interesting big band, founded by Poets of Rhythm and Embryo drummer Max Weissenfeldt and Ingo Vaupel aka Mood Ingodo, who previously invited other prestigious musicians such as Gunter Hampel, Sabir Mateen, Perry Robinson, Steve Swell, Maalem Mokhtar Ghania, Allan Praskin and Lori Goldston to play at their concerts. On this magic night Amanar de Kidal became the first Kel Tamasheq musicians to play Duke Ellington and Sun Ra compositions in collaboration with a Jazz Big Band, a bright and remarkable moment in music history.
One year later Ahmed Ag Kaedy, Kalle Enkelmann
came up with a new idea by putting together a band named Orion Congregation (or in Tamasheq, "Amanar Assafou", as it stands on the cover in the Tifinagh script, believed to have descended from the ancient Phoenician alphabet, dating all the way back to ca. 1200 BC) for a series of concerts featuring a floating line-up revolving around Ahmed Ag Kaedy and drummer Mahalmadane Traoré from Amanar, and key members of two German bands representing two generations and contrasting approaches to trans-continental fusion, Embryo and Onom Agemo & The Disco Jumpers. Other artists integrated the band on different dates, such as Alhousseini Anivolla from Niger, Ahmed Ag Kaedy`s cousin and leader of the bands Etran Finatawa and Anewal, and violinist Fabiana Striffler. They were sometimes joined on stage by members of the Omniversal Earkestra who were invited to jam along.
Embryo are one of the mothers of all bands going under the "World Music" banner, who have stayed true to their original colours after almost 50 years. Formed in 1969 by vibraphone player and drummer Christian Burchard and saxophone and flute player Edgar Hofmann, they have enjoyed one of the most expandable line-ups in the history of recorded music. More than 400 people have played with the band, most notably Mal Waldron, Charlie Mariano, Trilok Gurtu, the Karnataka College of Percussion, Ustad Mohamed Omar, Maalem Mahmoud Ghania, Salah Ragab, Fathy Salama, Okay Temiz, Monty Waters, Sirone, the No-Neck Blues Band and Fela Kuti. They cofounded Schneeball in 1976 together with Missus Beastly, Sparifankal, Ton Steine Scherben and Julius Schittenhelm. Displaying a stronger jazz-rock tendency in their earlier years, they went full-tilt global around 1979 when they drove through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India in their two tour buses, playing with local musicians along the way, as documented in Werner Penzel`s film "Vagabunden Karawane", and then released their best-known album "Embryo`s Reise" in its wake. Several hundred thousand kilometers later, on his way to Morocco, Christian Burchard suffered a stroke in 2016 and passed away two years later at the age of 71. We dedicate this 78th Schneeball specially to him for all the doors he had opened. His daughter Marja Burchard, equally proficient on drums, trombone and keyboards, took over and keeps Embryo on the road today.
Onom Agemo & The Disco Jumpers pay their respects to Embryo`s heritage by bringing their culture-clash aesthetic screaming into the 21st century. Originally conceived as a satellite combo of one of the most unclassifiable big bands of recent vintage, Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra (three of Onom Agemo`s members belong to its line-up, of which two, Johannes Schleiermacher and Jörg Hochapfel, can be heard on this recording), and simultaneously integrating two thirds of the Gunter Hampel Trio (in which the legendary vibraphone and reeds player is accompanied by Schleiermacher and Bernd Oezsevim), with bassist Kalle Enkelmann making up the numbers, they have proved that it is perfectly possible to keep one`s feet firmly on the dancefloor while heading for the stars in a glittering spaceship.
Although he sits at the back of the stage like drummers do, Mahalmadane Traoré is as much of a frontman as Ahmed Ag Kaedy and the other members of the band, thanks to his volcanic playing that threatened to shake the foundations of the BLO-Ateliers. He has been an in-demand player in Mali for local stars like Khaira Arby, Oumar Konate and Sidi Touré.
Groovemaster Bernd Oezsevim has been able to exercise his drumming skills with equal dexterity in different contexts. His experience as a long-time member of the Gunter Hampel Trio means he`s no stranger to the world of free improvisation, but he`s also played in rock bands and in jazz outfits such as Invisible Change, the Nikolaus Neuser 5tet, the Ludwig Hornung Trio, Ohne 4 Gespielt Drei, Zodiak Trio and Projekt Schwedt. His interplay with Mahalmadane Traoré during the Orion gigs is something to behold (they would frequently take turns to play drums and other percussion instruments). Anyone who takes a cursory listen at Onom Agemo`s "Cool Runnings" from their debut album will be astounded at his ability to unleash the funk in buckets even within the most complicated time signatures.
Michael Wehmeyer joined Embryo in 1977 (he can be heard for the first time on their "Apo-Calypso" album) and still plays with the band to this day, except for a short escapade when he formed Embryo`s Dissidenten in 1981 with fellow member Uve Müllrich, who shortened their name to Dissidenten after he returned to the fold one year later. He has also become Embryo`s archivist, recently completing a documentary film about the band`s career, "Embryo - A Journey of Music and Peace (Free4everYouThink)". His reputation as an outstanding film cutter gave him the opportunity to direct one of Sonic Youth`s earliest videos in 1985. Without mentioning the hundreds of musicians from around the world that he has been able to play with among the ranks of Embryo, an experience that has proved inspirational for this project, he has also recorded an album entitled "Rahala" with Egyptian qanun player Hossam Shaker, contributed to "Sufisticated" by Chris Karrer and is still involved in other projects such as World Affair and Rhythm4Wind, whose album "Along", dedicated to the memory of his mentor Mal Waldron, features fellow Embryo members Jens Pollheide and Roman Bunka, along with Ulli Bartel, Hannes Kies and Locko Richter.
Jörg Hochapfel`s chameleon-like career has seen him straddle genres as diverse as the driving modern jazz of Capri Di Rote Quintett (who unfortunately disbanded when he moved from Hamburg to Berlin), the subtle electronica of Feldneun and Palais d`Amour, the post-"Cabaret" cabaret of Princessin Hans, the wild free improvisation of Piho Hupo and offshoot band Hosho and the St Vitus dance music of his longest-standing project Hunger (a duo with drummer Christoph Rothmeier) on top of the aforementioned Onom Agemo and Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra. Hearing Wehmeyer`s fluid, snaking organ lines bounce against Hochapfel`s more percussive, cluster-friendly riffs and jabs, like two strutting peacocks showing off their plumage at each other, brought a palpable sense of excitement to the proceedings during this performance, as they conspired to launch the Orion Spaceship to the next level.
Bassist Kalle Enkelmann`s hip-swaying movements onstage speak for themselves. Equally adept at purveying the required swing on double bass in a jazz setting (as he does with the Julia Kadel Trio or on tour with trumpeters Richard Koch and Damir Bacikin) as he is laying down the grooves on electric bass with Onom Agemo (he`s also worked as a studio engineer with Alright Gandhi, the Master Musicians of Jajouka and Sarah Ariche), he almost achieves a guembri-like sound on stage as he follows the frenetic tempos of the faster songs with the same ease as the slow-paced numbers.
Saxophonist Johannes Schleiermacher
got his early break at the age of seventeen when he joined the trio of legendary improvised music pioneer Gunter Hampel. Several study trips to Morocco, Mali, Guinea and Senegal inspired him to found Woima Collective, followed by Onom Agemo & The Disco Jumpers. Other bands he`s played with in include Max Andrzejewski`s Hütte, Rodinia, Shake Stew, The Eskimo and the Futile Guilt, the Whitefield Brothers and Radio Citizen. His sax playing here frequently reaches the same incendiary levels that practitioners of Fire Music in the wake of Archie Shepp used to send audiences in raptures during the late 60`s. To top it off, his fascination for electronic circuitry allows him to interject some synthetic thunderstorms to cool off the stifling heat of the desert blues."