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A STORY OF SAHEL SOUNDS (neopankollektiv, Germany). 82 minutes. Rating: NNN DJ/producer Christopher Kirkley runs a small vinyl record label called Sahel.
A STORY OF SAHEL SOUNDS (neopankollektiv, Germany). 82 minutes. Rating: NNN
DJ/producer Christopher Kirkley runs a small vinyl record label called Sahel Sounds in Portland, Oregon, releasing small vinyl runs of music from West African artists he’s heard, often on lo-fi, Bluetooth-traded cellphone recordings. The filmmakers travel with Kirkley to Niger, where he tracks down artists he wants to work with and claps along with their gorgeous desert performances. He eventually embarks on tour with them through Europe.
There are many scenes of Kirkley – who describes himself in his Twitter bio as a “gentleman explorer and rogue ethno-musicologist” and looks like a character Paul Scheer might play – carefully explaining to Nigerien musicians his direct, fair trade relationship with artists and his straight up 50/50 profit split.
Though he goes out of his way to differentiate himself from “old-school World Music guys,” the film can’t avoid the thorny questions of appropriation and exploitation that come from being a white guy running an African music label for American record collectors.
It’s simultaneously an introduction to contemporary Nigerien music and a meditation on white privilege.