In 2010, Chris Kirkley—the Portlander who operates the West African music blog Sahel Sounds -- went to Mali to make field recordings of local musicians, He did so, but he also came back with memory cards full of songs copied from cell phones of the people in the northern city of Kidal (according to Kirkley, in the name of cultural exchange, he traded the villagers a couple of Elliot Smith and Townes Van Zandt tunes). Those songs -- representing everything from Tuareg guitar music to Moroccan dance pop to "fruityloop hip hop"—wound up on a pair of limited edition cassette compilations via Mississippi Records titled Music from Saharan Cellphones Vol. 1 and 2. Naturally, those mix tapes wound up online and quickly found their way into the blogosphere, attracting the attention of Pitchfork and The Guardian UK.
Today, Kirkley, in conjunction with Portland experimental music imprint Boomarm Nation, released the third volume in the series. Note the slight name change, however: This is music for Saharan cell phones. The International Reworks Collection features remixes and covers of songs from the first two comps by international musicians and producers as well as some from right here in town, including Gulls, E*Rock and Brainstorm, who contributed this hypnotic, tastefully AutoTuned version of "Tahoultine," originally by Mdou Moctar.
The full album is available in three formats: a free download (with optional donation) here; limited edition cassette, again through Mississippi Records; or an extremely limited run of 30 hand-numbered MicroSD cards, which Kirkley plans on then shipping and redistributing to Kidal, meaning that a piece of Portland is soon going to be playing on cell phones in Africa. What a crazy world we live in.