Aratan N Azawad (World Village, 2011)
Like their contemporaries Tinariwen, Mali’s Terakaft is comprised of Tuareg rebel souls who traded guns for guitars, finding the latter a more effective weapon in their fight for recognition and equality as well as unity among their scattered people.
The struggle continues, and with the music they wield, Terakaft (whose name means “caravan” in the Tamashek language) sound fully capable of winning. Tuareg history has always been one in which poetry and music played a role, a fact emphasized by Terakaft’s Aratan N Azawad (“Children of the Azawad”), which stresses, particularly on its magnificently aching title track, the need to preserve and pass along Tuareg culture to succeeding generations. Aratan N Azawad chugs into gear in familiar Saharan blues style, guitars twanging away, bass anchoring and complimenting and percussion patterns keeping a steadily insistent move on.
Lead vocals usher in response choruses like old friends greeting each other, giving many of the songs a conversational feel that both suits and shakes up songs like percolating opener “Alghalem” and the late-night dance rhythm of “Idiya Idohena” while complimenting the jabbing, interlocking guitar riffs that keep the caravan moving throughout.
A genuine surprise is “Akoz Imgharen,” which swings in a manner similar to West African highlife or the popular music styles more typical of the continent’s southern regions, showing Terakaft to be a band unafraid to try something a little different by brightening up the mood for a few minutes. But don’t get the idea that Aratan N Azawad would be a bummer of an album otherwise. It’s a high quality desert jam session, poignant in the way it sings the blues and uplifting in how solidly it rocks.
Buy the album or MP3 downloads: