Labor of Love: Les Filles De Illighadad

“Les Filles de Illighadad is Revolutionizing Traditional Tuareg Music” - She Shreds

There are only two female Tuareg guitarists in the known world. Fatou Seidi Ghali of the tende duo, Les Filles de Illighadad, is one, but she's ready to change that.

Scattered across the Sahara Desert in Northern Africa, the Tuareg people live a nomadic life, anchored by a strong musical tradition with the guitar at its center. While most Tuareg are musicians in some form or another, the guitar is reserved almost exclusively for men, and with the steady rise of artists like Bombino, Mdou Moctar, and groups like Tinariwen, the world is becoming more and more familiar with the men of Tuareg guitar every day. Fatou Seidi Ghali and Les Filles de Illighadad want us to know about the women too.

Fatou was discovered by Sahel Sounds via a photo on the internet. Sahel Sounds tracked her down via her cousin, Ahmoudou Madassane, guitar player in Mdou Moctar's outfit, who happens to be the brother of Les Filles guitar player Abdoulay Madassane. Small world, right? Sahel Sounds has recorded and released two albums with Les Filles and have been touring the world for 4 years, mesmerizing audiences with the trance inducing rhytms.

We were introduced to Les Filles de Illighadad by a feature in She Shreds Magazine. We invited Les Filles de Illighadad, here in Chicago on their first US tour, to play for us in our Lincoln Avenue showroom and asked Fatou about her art, tende music, and what's really important in life. They treated us to a song on their traditional Tende drum and discovered a love for Santa Cruz Guitars. 

How did making music become your life?
I did not imagine that making music will become my work. I just started as a hobby when I was 12 years old, picking up my brother's guitar. Finally, some years ago, someone shot a video of me playing guitar for someone's wedding, and the video turned around the social networks, and then people started contacting me to perform.

How did you get your start?
I started playing guitar when I was a kid. My brother came from Libya with one old, wooden guitar and at night, when he was sleeping or when he was traveling, I picked up the guitar and run into the bush to start training on it.

Who are your major influences?
My main influence is the direct environmental music in my community. Mostly Takamba music, and traditional Tende as well, but also some music coming from Northern Nigeria (Haussa Music).

What guides your playing style?
The Takamba melodies and Tende rhythms have been my model, so I started to play it on the guitar, and that became "my style." 

First guitar?
As I mentioned, my first guitar was my brother's guitar from Libya. Then later, I borrowed my Uncle's guitar, a Fender Stratocaster, for my first tour in Europe.

Current guitar?
My current guitar is a Fender Stratocaster bought by my manager as a gift to support me after my first European tour. He brought it from France to Niger for me. Since then, I am touring with this guitar.

Any gear you can't live without?
Not really. I used to live with nothing–only my family, animals and tent. So I don't really need anything else. Only water. It's the most important. (WOW, we agree! This is the most honest answer to this question we have ever received - CME)

What do you have coming up? Albums? Tours?
We are coming to the US for our first-ever tour in this part of the world. We have been working on a new live set for this summer and probably a new album coming next year.

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