Tamikrest is one of the best blues bands to come out of the Sahara.
Ever since the release of their first album, ‘Adagh’, in 2009, they have been regarded as the spearhead of the new Tuareg generation; these legitimate heirs of Tinariwen have long been opening up new paths between desert blues and Western rock.
This third album reminds us of that, with, in turn, strong beats in ‘Djanegh Etoumast’, then melodies sublimated by djembes and calabashes (‘Adounia Tabarat’). And there are sandstorms traversed by burning-hot guitars (‘Itous’), then intimate laments, resounding in the freezing-cold nights of the desert (‘Timtar’).
In the studio, the German Chris Eckman of the Glitterbeat label, who has been the group’s accomplice since they began recording, channels their spirit in the excellent ‘Tisnant an Chatma’, before reproducing a sort of desert dub on the slow, heavenly ‘Assikal’.
Who could affirm, after listening to these ten intense pieces, that Tuareg blues is not now being excitingly renewed? Tamikrest has been honing its unique and singular style since 2006, and ‘Chatma’ is the ultimate outcome.
This album wil be taking them on a tour of European capitals this year (they will be in Paris at La Maroquinerie on 15 October).
But recognition, even as far as the West, is not an end in itself for the group. Their leader Ousmane Ag Mossa reminds us that the real issue goes far beyond any notion of artistic achievement:
‘Even if our music gives me a better life and a little comfort, so long as my people are marginalised and persecuted, it has no value. [...] Over the years, nothing really gets any better in Kidal. Come and see how we live; this isn’t Bamako, it’s another world. Nobody invests in the development of this town; ninety per cent of young people are unemployed.’
Those were Ousmane’s words in an interview back in 2011. A few months later, Kidal became one of the strategic strongholds of radical Islamists. The peace-loving young Tuaregs of Tamikrest (the name of the group means ‘gathering’) regret this all the more, since their songs have always expressed the sufferings of their people and their struggle for recognition of their identity.
Regarding the recent war that has ravaged northern Mali, Ousmane never mentions victory or defeat, but only the terrible wrench it represents for his community. Absence, betrayal, pain, revolt, hope ... Tamikrest transform all these struggles into music, set to poetic texts.
The group always sing, above all, for their own people, even though their audience is now international. Their previous album in 2011 was entitled ‘Toumastin’ (‘My People’, in Tamasheq); this one is ‘Chatma’ (‘My Sisters’).
It is dedicated to all the women who suffer in silence, far away from the eye of the television camera, wounded in their very flesh by the conflict. The refrain of ‘Tisnant an Chatma’ is clear:
‘Who can understand the suffering in the soul of one who sees his sisters exhausted by the constraint of living within borders, in deep pain and with daily oppression?’
Anyone who is observant will have noticed that the singer Wonou Walet Sidati, who has been a member of Tamikrest since the beginning, has never been relegated to the side lines during their concerts. She always sings and dances in the middle of the group, often in the front line, front of stage.