Musical influences from the Sahara, Maghreb and West Africa come together in the work of Noura Mint Seymali, who draws on her knowledge of tradition and her skill as a griot [West African historian, praise singer, poet and musician] to create contemporary forms of Moorish music.

Raised in one of Mauritania’s most prestigious musical families, Seymali was trained from an early age as a griot by her grandmother, Mounina, and her stepmother, Dimi Mint Abba. She mastered vocal techniques and the ardin, a harp played only by women, and performed as a supporting vocalist for Abba from the age of 13. She also experimented with composing, particularly fusion music, following the guidance of her father, Seymali Ould Ahmed Vall, who created the first system for Moorish melodic composition.

Seymali formed a fusion band in 2004 with Jeich Ould Chighaly, with Seymali on vocals and Chighaly on tidinit [four-stringed lute] and guitar. Performing together in Mauritania for a number of years, they released two albums locally: Tarabe (2006) and El Howl (2010). Since 2012, Seymali and Chighaly have worked with bassist Ousmane Touré and drummer/producer Matthew Tinari, creating an ensemble of traditional Moorish instruments: ardin, tidinit, guitar and t’beul [bowl drum]. The quartet’s albums include Azawan (2012) and Azawan II (2013), recorded in Mauritania, and Tzenni (2014) and Arbina (2016), released by Glitterbeat Records, all of which were produced by Tinari. Both Tzenni and Arbina reached #1 on World Music Charts Europe, and Seymali was named Best Female Artist from North Africa by the African Union at the first edition of the AFFRIMA All Africa Music Awards (2014).

The quartet has performed at international venues such as globalFEST, USA; Festival-au-Desert, Mali; Hayy Festival, Cairo; Jeux de Francophonie, France; Festival Timitar, Agadir, Morocco; Roskilde Festival, Denmark; Barbican, London; SummerStage Festival, New York; Kennedy Center, Washington, DC; WOMEX, Spain; and Lowlands Festival, Biddinghuizen, the Netherlands.

Chighaly (b. 1971, Guerou, Mauritania) has been lauded in media outlets such as The New York Times, Guardian, BBC, NPR, Rolling Stone and VICE for his mastery of the tidinit and electric guitar. Also a griot, he is particularly known for adapting the tidinit’s complex phrasing for electric guitar.

Bassist Touré (b. 1967, Nouakchott) has toured extensively with Seymali, Malouma, Ousmane Gangué and others. His knowledge of western music theory has been key to the success of Mauritanian fusion music, for which different melodic and harmonic systems must be carefully adapted.

Producer, musician and music entrepreneur Tinari (b. 1982, USA) studied jazz drums and African music at the Oberlin Conservatory, USA, before moving to West Africa to pursue further research in ethnomusicology. In his role as manager, he has overseen the substantive growth of the quartet’s international profile, securing bookings at major international venues in over 30 countries.

Seymali was born in 1978 in Nouakchott, where she continues to live and work.

SAF participation:
SB10 and SB15 Music Programmes (2011, 2023)