February found us huddled around a black, Chinese-made smartphone in my translator’s cramped Ouagadougou apartment, in Burkina Faso, waiting for Fatou Seidi Ghali, the lead singer and guitarist of Les Filles de Illighadad, to pick up on the other end, in neighboring Niger. Frenetic phrases soon crackled over the line, and my translator, Mohamed, a Malian dancer currently living in exile in Burkina Faso, said the interview was off. Ghali’s husband had apparently heard his voice on the phone.

“He’s very jealous,” Ghali told us in Tamashek—the language of West Africa’s Tuareg people, from the Sahel region, which encompasses parts of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger—when we finally got hold of her.