Founded by Fatou Seidi Ghali, Les Filles de Illighadad hail from Illighadad, a secluded Tuareg village composed of nomadic families in the Sahara Desert in central Niger. Their sound is captivating — a union of voice, tende percussion (a traditional drum), handclaps, and Ghali’s revolutionary guitar playing. Ghali, who taught herself to play with her brother’s guitar, is arguably the first and one of the only female Tuareg guitarists. The tradition of Tuareg men playing guitar began in the 1970s, when young men living in exile in Libya and Algeria composed political ballads to convey their unrest.

Tende is both a type of music and a drum made from a mortar stretched with goatskin and played with pestles. Tuareg women learn to play the tende at a young age, singing of village life, love, and their ancestors. Together with Ghali’s guitar, the sound of Les Filles de Illighadad is both local and global, pointing to the development of the bluegrass of the American South, yet firmly rooted in Tuareg culture.