Yanna Momina"s Afar Ways was recorded live in a stilt-hut on the horn of Africa when Grammy-winning producer & author, Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Zomba Prison Project, Ustad Saami) visited Djibouti in the spring of 2018. The album is beautifully focused around Momina"s resonant vocals and the sparest of musical backings (acoustic guitar, handclaps, calabash). It is the 10th release in Glitterbeat"s acclaimed "Hidden Musics" series. Music is not something the rural Afar people "do for show," Momina asserted. Since most have no television, it is done for their own amusement at night. Every night.
As Yanna Momina and Brennan recorded, the tide came in and they ended-up surrounded by water. Throughout the album, the thatch hut audibly creaks and rocks in the waves.
Born in 1948, Yanna was discovered while accompanied on a two-string shingle played with nails and a matchbox for maracas. She made a name in the region not just for her thrilling vibrato, but for being the rare Afar woman who writes her own songs. Brennan states, "Yanna has one of the most unique voices I"ve ever heard. She flirts with the edge of chaos without losing control of her idiosyncratic phrasing." "We set-up to record in a stilt-hut" he adds as he describes the atmosphere of the recording session. "Moving at the speed of another culture, what first sounded like a call to prayer, was only conversation. And then we began. Momina was accompanied by a rotating cast of friends who passed around guitars and a calabash. They freely offered up handclaps and background vocals...in service of the artist they addressed honorifically as "aunt.""
As an experiment, Brennan asked Momina to try speaking over some music. On the spot she brainstormed a septuagenarian rap for the ages, riding an imaginary bass-line for over ten minutes that could be felt, though not heard. Then, after a manic burst of tunes, Momina asked her band to set down their instruments and undertook an a cappella rendition of "My Family Won"t Let Me Marry the Man I Love (I Am Forced to Wed My Uncle)," a song that even the friends gathered had never heard before. It was followed by a wordlessness that made undeniably clear that the afternoon"s recording had concluded.
1 Every One Knows I Have Taken a Young Lover
2 Afar Ways
3 Honey Bee
4 Ahiyole ("Clapping")
5 For My Husband
6 Heya (Welcome)
7 The Donkey Doesn't Listen
8 My Family Won't Let Me Marry the Man I Love (I Am Force