Photos

Sahara Rocks!: The Sahel Through The Lens Of Arnaud Contreras

View a gallery of images from French Sahel photographer Arnaud Contreras' forthcoming 'Sahara Rocks!' photobook.

In an attempt to dispel dated European perceptions of life in the Sahel, French photographer Arnaud Contreras has spent the last fourteen years training his lens on the rapid evolution of Northwestern Africa's social media generation. Traveling alongside Tuareg desert blues artists such as Tinariwen, Bombino, and Tamikrest, Contreras has documented the Sahara's dynamic music scene as well as its tech-savvy youth by capturing stunning black and white images of their everyday lives. His forthcoming Sahara Rocks! photobook is the culmination of this project that offers a rarely seen perspective of contemporary life in the region. Contreras explains the new book on his crowdfunding page:


"For 15 years, I have regularly traveled to the Sahara. Often with musicians or their relatives. They’re my first contact with the society. With the success of some of them, such as Tinariwen, Bombino or Tamikrest, a small window has been opened onto their lives. I try, by my reports and documentaries, to share what I see with them of the Sahara today, well rooted in modernity... Through this book, by photos and texts, I invite you on a trip with those women and men, I want to share with you what I have learned by their side. I want to show you the « Ishumar » culture, from the French, chômeur, unemployed. They have their own way of life, their musical style, their fashion. They move all around the Sahara, where ever they can find a job. With them we laugh a lot, making fun of ourselves and one another, even in the hardest times. I also want to portray the modernity of young tuaregs, arabs, songhaï, and moors who share both good and bad news through their Facebook accounts and their cell phones."

By turning to the power of the Internet to raise funds for what promises to be a beautiful visual artifact, Sahara Rocks! is more than half of the way to seeing the light of day. Click through the gallery above featuring Contreras' images of the modern Sahara and learn more about how you can support the project here.

Interview

Interview: Terri Is Stepping Out of the Shadows

We talk to the Wizkid-signed artist about the story behind the massive hit "Soco" and his latest Afro Series EP.

Certain afrobeats songs have made in-roads in international markets and paved the way for the genre's ceaselessly-rising widespread recognition. Among these history-defining songs were D'banj's "Oliver Twist," Tekno's "Pana," Davido's "If" & "Fall," Runtown's "Mad Over You," and of course, Wizkid's "Soco." Wizkid released "Soco" under his label imprint, Starboy Entertainment in March 2018, and the song spread like wildfire across Africa and beyond. "Soco" was an Afro-pop wonder delivered at a time when the 'afrobeats to the world' movement was gathering steam, further cementing its electric nature. The Northboi-produced song was co-signed by celebrities across the world like Rihanna, Cardi B, and Paul Pogba and has accrued well over a hundred million streams across streaming platforms worldwide.

"Soco" was not only a trailblazer amongst mid-2010s afrobeats records, it was also the introduction of the first Wizkid-signed artist, Terri. Just weeks before "Soco" was released, Terri was discovered by Wizkid's longtime producer, Mutay, who saw him covering the song "Oshe" on social media.

Before "Soco," Terri Akewe was well on his way to fame. At fifteen, he had performed at street carnivals in his neighbourhood and, one time, was carried all the way home by neighbours after winning a Coca-Cola sponsored singing competition. Before his life-changing meeting with Wizkid, Terri had a seven-track EP ready for release, as well as a viral song titled "Voices." "One time I was on set with the video director T.G Omori, he told me that 'Voices' was the first time he heard of me" Terri tells me as we settle on a plush couch at his home in Lagos.

Regardless of Terri's initial career trajectory; signing to a label headed by afrobeats' biggest superstar was bound to accelerate his musical journey, and at the same time, cast a huge shadow of expectation on his career, especially given a debut as spectacular as "Soco." With his latest EP, Afro Series, powered by the sensational single "Ojoro," one thing is clear: Terri is stepping out of the shadows into his own spotlight and he is doing it on his own terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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