Timbuktu Tarab Showcases the Diversity of Malian Musical Influences

Khaira Arby - Timbuktu Tarab
Khaira Arby – Timbuktu Tarab
Khaira Arby

Timbuktu Tarab (Clermont Music, 2010)

Pooling a stellar group of musicians and committing herself to singing the praises and hardships of the people of Mali, the Nightingale of Mali’s North Khaira Arby has given a voice, a wholly multi-cultural voice as she sings and slips easily from the Songhai language to the Tamashek language to Arabic, to the people of Mali on her latest Timbuktu Tarab.

She boasts, “Malian audiences find me in all their music. My style has many Malian musical influences.” Her previous recordings include the self-title Khaira and Ya Rassoul, as well as collaborations with The Sway Machinery for The House of Friendly Ghosts Vol. 1 and JeConte & the Mali All Stars on the recording Mali Blues. In 2006, she earned the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mali and Timbuktu Tarab earned a spot on Songlines magazine’s to 25 Albums of Malian music in July. One listen and you get clear picture that the accolades are well-deserved.

On Timbuktu Tarab, Ms. Arby’s powerful vocals sit center stage amidst a mélange slick guitar lines, ngoni, bass, traditional violin and potent intricate rhythms, as well as some sassy backing vocals. Part rock, part blues, part desert blues, the power of Mali’s musical traditions muscles through Timbuktu Tarab with an underlying fierceness.

Malian music fans get the goods with such tracks like “Khaira,” “Dja Cheickna” and “Delya.” Tracks like “Djaba,” praising the ancient Tuareg, and “Tidjani Ascofare” dedicated to the Tidjani people are sweetly soulful. Other goodies include “Salou,” “Tarab” and “Sourgou.”

Much of Timbuktu Tarab, especially tracks like “Youba,” about the conditions the workers in the salt mines must endure, come across as grounded in Mali and not a series of songs to impress foreigners, proving that this music is precious and rich all on its own.

Buy Timbuktu Tarab

Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.


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