Desert Blues - The Sounds of Tuareg Rebellion
Two exciting additions to WXYC playbox feature releases focusing on guitar music from the Western Sahara, each representing opposite ends of the recording spectrum and providing a window into the volatile political climate of the area. They both embody the sound of Tuareg unrest that is once again intensifying in the region, since rebel Tuaregs began another uprising against the Nigerian government earlier this year. You can read about the conflict on the following links taken from Tinariwen's Web site (they're in French though, so get Google to translate 'em):
Group Inerane is the newer of the two releases, presented in the lo-fi Sublime Frequencies style and recorded live in Algeria. Tinariwen's record was released in March, and showcases the group's efforts in the studio after evolving their sound for over two decades and two prior full-lengths. Individual reviews with more details below:
Artist: Group Inerane
Album: Guitars From Agadez (Music of Niger)
Label: Sublime Frequencies
The second vinyl release from Sublime Frequencies continues to document Western Saharan guitar music (the first LP was Group Doueh, released earlier in the year), this time showcasing Bibi Ahmed and his Group Inerane.
Hailing from the currently tumultuous city of Agadez, Niger, the group exhibits a sound steeped in snaking, blues-rock influences and infused with Saharan folk, involving two electric guitars, a small drum kit and a chorus of vocalists. Recorded live by SF workhouse Hisham Mayet, the quality varies from track to track, but maintains a certain gritty charm that adds to the ecstasy of the group's performance.
The tracks range from psychedelic burnouts to plodding claps and soaring voices, bobbing rhythmically like a camel ride and inducing states of sandy trance. Their music is encompassed in the revolutionary rock of the Tuareg people, a sound that developed in the 1980s and 90s during the First Tuareg Rebellion as a political weapon for the rebels and an outlet of communication from Libyan refugee camps. The Nigerian government's failure to concede more political representation and economic compensation from the country's uranium deposits to the Tuareg since 1995 has led to a second uprising initiated by rebel Tuaregs earlier in the year, and is currently raging strong.
With music as captivating as this, Sublime Frequencies deserves applause once again for highlighting a region currently torn by conflict and deserving of attention from the outside world.
Album: Aman Iman: Water is Life
Label: World Village
This group of nomads/soldiers/musicians from Mali has quite a backstory. The founding members of Tinariwen first met each other in the 1980s after being recruited to military camps in Libya, where they began fighting for the autonomy of their Tuareg people against the Malian and Nigerian government.
They began writing songs with their electric guitars, singing of their exile and struggle among the war-torn desert, drawing influence from the likes of Led Zeppelin and Hendrix. They've since given up their guns for guitars (though they once carried the two together), enjoying a fair amount of exposure since the late 90s from the likes of Robert Plant and Carlos Santanta, two of the musicians that originally inspired their desert trance-blues sound.
This is their third album proper, recorded in Bamako, Mali, and produced by Plant's guitarist Justin Adams to a finish that's a bit slick, but goes just far enough not to completely strip the music of its rustic mystique. Fronted by lead songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, the group usually contains around six guitarists and an equivalent amount of male and female vocalists and percussionists, delivering an entrancing brand of slippery guitar riffs and passionate campfire ballads in their native Tamashek tongue.
The group's droning desert sound might get a little too familiar after sitting through the album's entirety, but the music itself is performed with enough conviction to make this a compelling record, highlighted by the voice it gives to the hardships of the Tuareg and their fight for independence.