Credit: Andrea Bauer

Recording engineer Jamie Carter, who owns East Pilsen studio Carterco, met Nigerien guitarist Hamadal Issoufou Moumine (better known by his nickname, Almeida), in October 2008: the African was in town to play with jazz guitarist Bill MacKay and percussionist Jamie Topper at Dan Godston’s Chicago Calling Festival, and Godston brought the three of them to Carter to document their collaboration. During the late-night session, Almeida began asking about Carter’s ability to do mobile recordings, and two days later, after returning to his home in Niamey, he invited Carter to produce a recording by his popular working band, Tal National. The engineer accepted, but when he eventually left for Niger (his portable rig amounted to a laptop, recording software, and eight microphones), he still didn’t know how many members were in the band, or that only Almeida spoke English. Despite that seat-of-the-pants beginning, the partnership between Carter and Tal National continues to this day: he’s recorded three albums by the band, all in Niger (they cut the latest, due next year, in January), and he’s become their unofficial manager, helping them get a booking agent and a record deal. The group’s second record with Carter, Kaani (Fat Cat), made a big splash in 2013, leading to a successful U.S. tour that fall.