El Foukr R’Assembly is an Algerian "trans-Saharan Groove band” that formed in 2014, when a taxi-driver/farmer, a builder, a graphic designer and a sound engineer met in an isolated region of the Sahara near the border of Niger. Together, they set the intention to conceptualize a sound that is African above anything, sewing together raï and Sufi music with Ghanain high-life, electro-house, Haussa and Tuareg blues.
Their debut EP, Look South, was envisioned while traveling through Algeria, Niger and Libya, soaking in the immemorial and diverse styles from the vast desert region. El Foukr R’Assembly recorded the EP over 11 days in a DIY studio “a stone throw from the desert” in Djanet, and included Haussa & Tuareg musicians from Niger and Algeria. The result is a lush and organic six tracks of re-envisioned Saharan music, at times driving and elated, others dreamy and trance-like. Wanting to continue without state-based sponsorship (and thus censorship) the group embarked on a crowdfunding campaign, which allowed them to travel to Ghana for a three-week tour and recording residency. There, they soaked up the sonic textures of the city such as highlife, Burkinabe Mandinge and Afro-Urban salsa. They recorded an album during this time titled Accra Affair, which is currently up in demo version but has yet to be officially released, but will be imminently. In 2016, the El Foukr R’Assembly traveled to the US for a three-week residency organized by ethnomusicologist Colter Harper. There, the group took part in a number of shows, workshops and even recording sessions, spreading their sound to a new audience. They created new tracks with Harper, and also with spoken word and jazz artist Kelly Human DJ, both of whom joined the band on tour in Algeria later in 2016. Throughout their time together, they have been pushed and aided by their manager and film maker Oualid Khalifi, who has documented their recording process in Algeria, and the beginnings of his scout trip to Ghana in a short film, and intends to make a documentary about the group’s time in the musical West African country.
In forming El Foukr R’Assembly, the members found a force pushing them into the musical unknown, and in this, they found their new lives. It will be fascinatin to see where this journey will lead the dynamic and fearless group, within Africa and beyond.
*This article was originally published on our sister site Scene Noise.