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INTERVIEW: Tamikrest
Luke Turner , October 16th, 2013 07:45

Tamikrest begin their UK tour tonight. Here, they discuss recording their new album Chatma during the recent strife in Mali and explain why they've dedicated it to the women of the world

Tuareg desert rockers Tamikrest follow up the release of their excellent third album Chatma with their biggest UK headlining tour to date next week. The eight-date tour kicks off on October 16, and includes a London show at XOYO on October 20. Chatma, meaning "sisters", is dedicated to the courage of Tuareg women during the current political upheaval in Mali - read our review here.   The full list of dates is underneath the following interview, where Tamikrest discuss the difficulties caused by the recent trouble in Mali, and explain why they wanted to dedicate their album to the women not just of their tribe, but the world.

When did you begin to write the new record?

Ousmane Ag Mossa: The oldest song is 'Timtar'. It's a love song I composed ten years ago. But the majority of them are recent. I started to composed 'Tisnant an Chatma' in 2011, but as with many other songs, it takes time to find the definitive form of the melody or of the lyrics.

Was the process interrupted by the situation in Mali? Were you affected by this at all?

OAM: The process of composition was not affected by the problems in Azawad. I compose with my guitar anywhere. But later, I present the songs to the band and then we work together on them. Sometimes we don't change anything and just do an arrangement, sometimes we can change some words, or the construction of the song. Our band is very democratic and everybody can bring his idea and his reflection. And for this album, it was very difficult. We had to leave Kidal where we have our rehearsal studio [in the Maison du Luxembourg]. In Algeria, where we are living now, we don't have any place to work (except the desert, but without electricity).

Another problem was that our new guitarist, Paul Salvagnac, is living in France. Because of the situation, he can't come and work with us in southern Algeria so we have to work by internet. The problem is, what you can do in an afternoon when you are in the same room took us a week. Finally, we finished the arrangements of the songs after the shows, at the hotel, during our European tours.

Why did you decide to dedicate the album to the Tuareg women? What is the position of women in Tuareg culture? Do they have a strong influence over the Tuareg identity?

OAM: The women take a central place in the Tamashek society. Since the old ages, they were the queens of the desert. They are the guardians of our traditions and our culture. With the troubles that my people have faced for many years, women have suffered a lot, but they still stand up and keep their honour. Women and children are the first victims of the conflict in Mali, but also all over the world. That's why we pay a tribute to the Tamashek women, but also to all women, all over the world.

Looking back over Tuareg history, have there been particular women who have had a significant role?

OAM: There's the example of Tin Hinan, a queen of the ancient time. But I would like to say that all women are very important in Tamashek culture. For example, there are demonstrations in Kidal every week, demonstrations to get political and economic autonomy for our land. That's the women and the children who are doing that, because they think that the recognition of the rights for the internal autonomy for our people will mean the end of our long suffering.

Is it true that in Tuareg culture inheritance passes down the female line?

OAM: It depends on the family. In two families, you can find two very different situations. What is true, is that if the husband died, everything goes to his wife. But generally, the daughters get less than the sons.

Do you feel the Tuareg have a different attitude to women than other cultures?

Wonou Walet Sidati: The situation of the Tamashek women is different if they are living in the countryside or in the cities. But the situation of the women doesn't depend on our ethnicity. It depends on the families. You can find families (and it's the same with the Arabs, the Saharaouis...) where the women cannot go to work outside of the house, and some where the women are free... There's not one particular situation, just as is the case in Europe. I have listened to many stories where it's not good to be a woman there too.

Do Tuareg women ever make music themselves? If so, can you recommend some?

WWS : Yes, for sure! This tradition is still alive! For a wedding, a party... There's a female band from Kidal called Tilwat. It's really beautiful.

You now travel a lot around the world. Have you absorbed new musical influences? What new music have you been listening to?

OAM: As an artist, I think that each day, each new sound you hear, that's an new experience. It can influence you or not. Before coming to Europe, we listened to western musicians such as Dire Straits, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd. Cheikh, our bassist, liked the flamenco and especially Paco de Lucía. Aghaly, our djembe player, fell in love with Rachid Taha... Generally, I like many musicians from the 70s and the 80s.

What has been the biggest change for Tamikrest since you started?

Aghaly Ag Mohamedine: We say in Kidal, "Travel is giving experience". That's also true for the music too. When you go out of your house, your country, you meet new influences. Now we can listen to very great artists when we play together on festivals, so it's also a giving experience.

How is your tour going? What can we expect?

AAM: The Chatma tour is just starting, and it's just really satisfying to play the new songs on stage. We try to rearrange them for the concerts, so we will try to present different interpretations. But it will still be Tamikrest.

OCTOBER
Wed 16 - The Sage Hall Two, Gateshead
Fri 18 - Howard Assembly Room, Leeds
Sat 19 - Musicport Festival, Whitby
Sun 20 - XOYO, London
Mon 21 - Djanogly Theatre, Nottingham
Tue 22 - Komedia, Brighton
Wed 23 - Colston Hall II, Bristol
Thu 24 - Arts Centre, Norwich

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