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Monday 31 July 2023

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 10 - Chad

After a couple of weeks resting in the Ubangi delta, we've got back on the bus and are continuing our African adventure. However, this leg of the journey is a fairly short, as we are popping over the northern border of the Central African Republic into neighbouring Chad.

Chad is the 20th largest country in the world but most of us (including me) know next to nothing about it. I have done a bit of research and let's just say that while Chad no doubt has its charms it may not be an obvious holiday destination. The capital N'Djamena is the most polluted city in Africa, and because of the distance from the sea and its largely desert climate Chad 'enjoys' the nickname 'the Dead Heart of Africa'. 

It is also the seventh poorest country in the world, but as home to over 200 ethnic and linguistic groups I imagine it is culturally rich. Having said that, it has been a real struggle to find five acts to feature in this post. The problem isn't a lack of quality - they are all rather splendid - just a lack of availability.

Browsing through the limited number of websites with information on Chadian music three band names crop up most frequently - Chari Jazz, L'International Challal and Groupe Tibesti. We have a track from each of them for you.

Chari Jazz are considered to be the first modern musical group from Chad, having formed under the patronage of then President François Tombalbaye in 1964. It appears that the President packed them off to DR Congo to learn from rumba masters like Franco and Rochereau, with clear instructions not to come back until they were good. I imagine he welcomed them back with open arms when he heard "Kag N'Dil".

L'International Challal and their main man Maître Gazonga developed a big local following in the 1980s. According to a badly translated French Wikipedia entry, when the band played in the villages they accepted payment in the form of food which they then bundled into their truck and sold at the market back in N'Djamena. Very enterprising.

Groupe Tibesti (or sometimes just Tibesti) were formed in 1994 in the region of the same name. This very short bio tells us that "their music explores the traditional Sahelian rhythms with a preference for Chadian Sai". When you look up 'Chadian Sai music' all it says is that it is a style popularised by Tibesti, so we are none the wiser really.

Moving forward in space and time we meet up with Mounira Mitchala, also known as Sweet Panther (which is what Mitchala means in Chadian Arabic). Today's selection is the title track from her 2008 debut album and her signature tune. Wikipedia tells us that her sister is Chad's first female cartoonist. Clearly a talented family.

Rounding things off, and bringing us up to date, are Pulo NDJ whose aim is to explore traditional Chadian music but add an electronic twist. This track is on their 2019 debut album "Desert to Douala" which you can pick up over at Bandcamp where you will also find an informative bio.

"Kag N'Dil" - Chari Jazz

"Les Jaloux Saboteurs" - L'International Challal

"Pa-Sei" - Groupe Tibesti

"Talou Lena" - Mounira Mitchala

"Taroum (de Moundou)" - Pulo NDJ

Before we get to the videos, a big thanks to Placide Ayreh for coming to the rescue at the last minute with some Mandatory African Reggae. It is much appreciated.


  1. The Mounira Mitchala track is particularly splendid, and the three preceding are not too shabby either