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Tamotaït Richie Troughton , May 18th, 2020 08:44

Tamikrest take assouf desert blues into new territory on their new album Tamotaït, finds Richie Troughton

We need a sincere gathering for the protection of future generations” – ‘Amzagh’

Hard to believe it is four years since Tamikrest last released an album, 2017’s Kidal, and so this is a welcome return from the Tuareg band. Since their 2010 debut Adagh the group have melded their craft over five LPs that have searched to move assouf music, the desert blues brought to global attention by Tinariwen, into new territory, always offering something else, while staying true to the blueprint set by their nomadic Saharan forebears.

With each statement, released during various stages of instability and uncertainty in their homeland, Mali (they are now based in Algeria) and the surrounding Sahara desert, the group have shared a message of hope despite upheaval, throughout civil war and the Islamic State insurgency movement. Their return follows a trajectory that has seen them tour the world over recent years and the wider perspective resonates with the troubling times everyone is now engaged in. The album title, Tamotaït, itself translates as “hope for a positive change.”

As opening track ‘Awnafin’ fires up the generators, intricately weaved guitar lines immediately remind you of the group at their best and not afraid to push their music into different dimensions. A bold introduction and dynamic arrangement sticks to the formula while constantly evolving and developing. The sharp production allows each instrument the space and sonic textures to open up expansive new worlds of unfolding sounds and wider influences. Still, at the heart is a message of hope for the Tuareg people: “My dearest wish is to see the day. That day when my people will be untied”.

Musicians the group met in different parts of the world on their travels guest on the album. ‘Timtartin’ features the vocals of Moroccan singer, Hindi Zahra singing “We are all fallen stars, All rising suns, For those that won’t cry, We light up the world,” while frontman Ousmane Ag Mossa reflects on the loss of childhood innocence. Album closer ‘Tabsit’ features a collaboration with Japanese musicians, as shamisen and tonkori trade melodic lines with guitars in a complementary nature, saluting their respect between the different cultures with ancient histories between them. ‘Anha Achal Wad Namada’ sees the group up the tempo considerably on a (by their standards) straight-up unabashedly rocking number, as piercing guitar lines maintain the galloping desert blues motifs.

For Tamotaït, the group once again worked with producer David Odlum, who mixed the previous record, and had access to his studio’s vintage equipment, ideal for capturing the warmth and density to present their sound in a suitably clear tone. While the likes of Can and Pink Floyd have been referenced, perhaps as much for the ambient passages caught on tape to elevate the main themes, the sound is not dissimilar to the kind of out of time vibe summoned by Dead Meadow. In another realm, or if you follow an off-path narrative, Tamikrest can undoubtedly be now be recognised as one of the heaviest contemporary guitar-based classic rock groups around, whose records always reward further listening.

Like the lifestyle in the desert, their music and rhythms represent the heartbeat of the land. A recently published report produced a theory that sand dunes can communicate with each other, after all. Across the shifting sands, there is a constant rhythm that taps into the soul and consciousness of those who inhabit the space.

Talking to the Quietus around the release of Kidal, Ousmane Ag Mossa highlighted the desires and wishes for the musicians and the people around them. “The desert is really everything for us,” he said. “I think our music reflects this and it reflects what we are living through, because it pervades and inhabits us. And it reflects a part of Tuareg lives, because we live the same thing. We do not live like stars in large sumptuous villas. In my neighbourhood, some people do not even know that I am a musician, that I go to tour around the world. Simply, I am Ousmane, the son of Mossa, the one who lives in the house, down there at the end of the street.”

The group’s stories of attacks on culture in their homeland, where musicians have often been targeted to prevent them from playing have always been shocking to hear. Now the unthinkable has happened everywhere, recent events mean we can all perhaps relate more in some way.

When Tamikrest announced tour dates around the release of the album it did not feature UK dates, following a trend from a previous tour when a string of UK dates were cancelled as a sign perhaps of what was to come post-EU departure for visiting touring artists, though a London show was later added. That tour, inevitably since postponed due to recently introduced worldwide travel restrictions, is in the process of being rescheduled.

Of course, the conditions we find ourselves in today cannot have played any part in the making of this album. However, by the time of its release its sound and message will be more relatable to listeners as we have all inadvertently become, if not nomadic (the opposite) but searching for a world we once knew, or perhaps never did.

For Tamikrest that place is Azawad, who they have named a song for on the album – a nation for the Tuareg people.

Azawad my desire, the one that keeps me alive. Not a personal desire, but one of a people… Who do not accept to live dominated.

Everyday is resistance. Are you with them?