Songs For Saharan Desert Refugees

Various Artists – Songs For Desert Refugees
Various Artists

Songs For Desert Refugees (Glitterhouse Records GRCD739, 2012)

Songs For Desert Refugees, one of the best world music compilations of the season will be available in North America on September 13th. This is also one of the best Tamashek (Tuareg) music compilations out there.

Those who follow international news know that northern Mali has been involved in a long conflict. Things took a dramatic turn in January of 2012 when fighters from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA) attacked the town of Menaka in the far east of Mali. The fighting became widespread and an alliance of various groups managed to take over all of northern Mali. In April, the rebels declared independence for northern Mali and created a new nation called Azawad, which has not been recognized internationally.

The fighting forced many Tuareg, Songhai, Peulh and Arab people to flee to bordering countries like Niger, Algeria, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. At the same time, riots in Bamako, Kati and other southern towns in Mali also forced Tuaregs and Arabs living there to flee to other countries.

Songs For Desert Refugees is a benefit album with the purpose to raise funds for these refugees. The album features primarily unreleased tracks by some of the best known Tuareg groups from Mali (Tinariwen, Tamikrest, Terakaft, Tartit), Niger (Bombino, Toumast, Etran Finatawa) and Algeria (Nabil Baly Othmani, Faris).

Tinariwen is the most famous Tuareg band in the world. The group is led by trailblazer singer-songwriter and guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who pioneered the use of the electric guitar in Tamashek music at the end of the 1970s. The song featured here is a previously unreleased track from the 2006 recording sessions that produced their much-admired album, ‘Aman Iman’.

Thanks to Tinariwen’s accomplishments, the Adrar des Ifoghas region in northeastern Mali has become a breeding ground for new artists. This new generation includes Terakaft, Tamikrest and Amanar, who encompass the new wave from Kidal, the capital of Mali’s northeastern deserts.

The town of Aguelhoc is represented on Songs For Desert Refugees by Ibrahim Djo, who plays American-style blues with French musicians, and by a fledgling new band called Tadalat.

Further south, but still in northern Mali, the Tartit Ensemble comes from the Timbuktu region. Tartit uses a traditional drum known as tindé, hand-clapping and vocals.

The neighboring nation of Niger also has a sizable Tuareg community. Nigerien Tuaregs are represented by the rocking Toumast, a collaboration of Tuareg and Peul musicians known as Etran Finatawa and the latest Tuareg guitar sensation, a young musician named Bombino, who is currently touring the United States and Canada.

Tuareg culture from southern Algeria is represented by Italo-Algerian musician Faris, who collaborates with Terakaft, and by Nabil Othmani.

All the income from the sale of this CD will go to two reliable non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who work with refugees in northern Mali. The first is called Tamoudré and it operates with nomads in the pastures around Tessalit, scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the recent months.

The other NGO is called ETAR. It supports education projects and helps to protect and disseminate the magnificence of Tamashek culture and to develop cultural exchanges between the peoples of the desert and Europe. It is currently raising funds to build a cultural center in Aguel’hoc, another community that has suffered a great deal in this war.

The money raised will be used for food, blankets and medicines. All involved in producing the album are giving their services for free.

Songs For Desert Refugees contains fabulous unreleased desert blues songs by some of the finest contemporary Tuareg, brought together in this compilation for a worthy cause.

In a related story, American Afrobeat band Toubab Krewe will present the “Musicians For Mali” benefit concert at City Winery in New York on Saturday, September 22, 2012.

Buy Songs For Desert Refugees in North America

Buy Songs For Desert Refugees in Europe


Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

three × 4 =