Chatma (Glitterbeat, 2013)
The past couple of years in Mali have proved to be a poisoned stew of armed conflict, Islamic rebels looking for a new home for their particular brand of Sharia law, a French army invasion and wave after wave of refugees praying they make it to the border. While most wars prove to be an unhealthy climate for musicians, the conflict in Mali has been downright dangerous for musicians with religious fanatics smashing instruments, banning music altogether and looking to do away with anyone who looks like he might just burst in a song and dance. This kind of thing always makes me a little perverse wanting to play some catchy song really loud, some really soulful piece, just to catch one of these overly devote devotees tapping their foot or clapping along, just so I can point and yell out, “Aha, caught you!”
Well, one group of musicians of desert blues fame Tamikrest has fled their home area of Kidal in the northeastern section of Mali to take up residence in Algeria. The good news is that Tamikrest has a new recording set for release on October 1st on the Glitterbeat label. Entitled Chatma, Tamikrest has tied this, their latest recording, previous recording include the 2010 Adagh and the 2011 Tounmastin, to a theme. Chatma meaning “sisters” in the Kel Tamashek language of the Saharan nomadic peoples, steps out on a musical limb in a nod to “the courage of the Tuareg women, who have ensured both their children’s survival and the morals of their fathers and brothers.” And, a well-earned dedication it must be.
Tamikrest pulls out all the stops for Chatma, leaping headlong into a desert blues recording that comes across as a sleeker, more sophisticated sound than the looser, freer desert recordings that have come across my desk in the past year. Dipping into dub, blues, psychedelia, funk and rock, Chatma is a kaleidoscope of varying colors. Dark and moody, poignantly self-reflective or upbeat, the whole of Chatma is savagely cool with edgy guitar licks, hypnotic rhythms and vocals that go to the very bone. With long, lanky guitar lines fronting opening track “Tisnant an Chatma,” Tamikrest lays the listener low with that ever-present revolving rhythm, some downright nasty guitar licks, vocals and ululations by Wonou Walet Didati that will raise the hairs on your neck. Chatma just gets better with offerings like the upbeat “Imanin bas zihoun” and catchy “Itous.”
Tamikrest turns quietly soulful for “Achaka Achail Aynaian daghchilan” with acoustic and electric guitar lines as a backdrop to Ousamane Ag Mossa’s vocals. The stunning “Assikal” comes across as deliciously dreamy before slipping into something impossibly rich and lush with spoken vocals against guitar lines that seem to float in space before evolving again with percussion and sinuous flute.
Just as good is “Toumast anlet,” “Djanegh etoumast” and the rocking, kick ass “Takma.” “Adounia tabarat” has a feel-good folksy feel about it, but it is closing track “Timtar” that certainly catches the ear with its open landscape feel, giving one the impression of being able to see forever across the sand, and Mr. Mossa’s carefully worked vocals.
Tamikrest has risen above the fray going on in Mali and has crafted a stunning recording. The music hating flakes can rant all they want; they don’t stand a chance against this kind of music.
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