Arts, Culture & Media

A musician in Niger spends his days on the bench and his nights on the stage

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Credit:

Ousseini Moustik

Judge Issoufou Moumine isn't just a judge. Sure, by day, he rules on thefts and other routine crimes in the West African nation of Niger.

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But, by night, he goes by the stage name Almeida and he fronts the band Tal National. They're one of the most popular bands in Niger

You'd think his stature would streamline the process for Almeida to get a visa to tour the US. Not so.

Almeida says getting a visa has been a problem because of security. "Sometimes, if there is no security, the embassy can close for weeks," he says.

But a judge has to take security seriously, and Almeida is not the only musician in Tal National. He's got nine bandmates he needs to help through the visa process, as well. And Tal National is a diverse band.

Eight different ethnic groups are represented, including the Hausa, Zarma and Tuareg. Almeida says that's why the band is called Tal National — the face of Niger is represented in the band, and the musicians become as one.

Almeida is the undisputed leader of Tal National. But there's another leader who plays a role on the band's latest CD: the second president of Niger, Seyni Kountche.

The late president came to power in a military coup in 1974, but Almeida says he was still a good leader.

"Kountche built Niger. He refused to allow the people to take money, take government money," he says.

And what could today's president of Niger learn from Kountche? Almeida doesn't hesitate to answer.

"He didn't think about himself. He thought about the country. The political people of today just think about themselves," he says.