It’s the forgotten place. Lying between the mountains of northwest Tunisia and the Algerian border, the Bargou valley and the village named after it lie isolated, away from the world. It’s poor, barren country, but standing apart, Bargou has developed its own culture that had never been documented until Nidhal Yahyaoui began the task. Born in the valley, he grew up hearing his parents and family sing the songs that belong to the region, and he was determined that the music and traditions shouldn’t slip away into obscurity. With Targ, the album he’s made with his band Bargou 08, Yahyaoui has perfectly fused the past and the present to place Bargou on the map.
“Nidhal began collecting songs from all over the valley more than ten years ago,” explains producer and keyboard player Sofyann Ben Youssef, who’s known Yahyaoui since they were both ten years old. “No one had ever done that before. He listened to the women, to the village elders, and he learned all the variations on the songs. This is his passion, and he asked me to join him.”
Together, they assembled a collective of both local and European musicians who spent three weeks playing in the Yahyaoui family home in Bargou village. They worked on the material, shaping a sound that harnessed the power of the tradition and connected it to something the young would understand.
“It was important for us to record there and to use some local musicians on the record. But we also wanted the young people in the village to see that something could be created right there and that they didn’t need a lot of money to do it, to inspire them.’
At the heart are the songs themselves, and the insights they offer into the life of the Bargou valley through time. “We didn’t choose the material on Targ,” Ben Yousef says. “The songs chose us. The place made the selection for us. They brought it all alive"
With Targ, Bargou 08 make sure that the valley and its people will never be forgotten.