Tag Archives: Tuareg music

The Blistering Scrumptious Sound of Kel Assouf

Kel Assouf – Black Tenere (Glitterbeat Records, 2019)

World music fans looking for a desert blues/rock fix get their wish on February 15th with the release of Kel Assouf’s Black Tenere. To be released on the Glitterbeat Records label, Black Tenere is the follow-up recording to Kel Assouf’s 2016 release of Tikounen and the 2013 release of Tin Hinane. Burning bright with Belgium based, but Nigerien born, front man and guitarist Anana Ag Haroun, Belgium jazz drummer Oliver Penu and Tunisia born keyboardist Sofyann Ben Youssef, who also took on producing the album, Black Tenere is a razor sharp call of the Kel Tamashek or Tuareg culture as well as a blistering delicious addition to Kel Assouf’s sound.

Black Tenere thrives on potent duality where homage is paid to the Kel Tamashek (Tuareg) traditions and current struggles for independence and a contemporary delving into Western rock influences like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Queen of the Stone Age with some European electronic soundscapes tossed in for good measure.

Noting that, “These days I’m a Belgian when I’m in Niger and a Nigerien when I’m in Belgium,” Anana Ag Haroun says, “My musical tastes didn’t change but they are expanding further thanks to my different encounters and my curiosity. Black Tenere is a rock album. It’s a choice to give a more original touch that builds up the identity of Kel Assouf and differentiates it from the other groups of Ishumar music. For me the music has to travel and it has to be open to other sounds so that everyone can listen to the messages it carries.”

Black Tenere opens with fiery “Fransa,” replete with call and response vocals, guitar, keyboards and the familiar rolling rhythm, taking on the complexities of French intervention and squaring that with the state of their own nomadic way of life. “Fransa” gives way to the hard rocking “Tenere” with some truly kickass drumming, guitar licks and keyboards. “Alyochan” is just as amazing with driving drumming. “Tamatant” is where Black Tenere takes a sharp left turn to land listeners into dreamy electronic soundscape. The guitar licks seem to be suspended in space and the vocals soulful.

The electronica is part and parcel to Mr. Ben Youssef’s influences, his own work on AMMAR 808, a Pan-Maghreb futurism and the Stockholm Stureparken Studio where Black Tenere was recorded.

Mr. Ben Youssef explains, “Stureparken is a studio owned by musicians, one of them is a friend and fellow producer. The thing that is special about the studio is that it has a huge collection of keyboards, synths, guitars, basses and drums as well. All of them are vintage instruments, with some being rarer than others. The idea was to have more choices of good or weird sounding instruments. We were trying to find some special sounds and kept experimenting around that idea.”

He goes on, “I have been a rocker since my teens. I was trying to translate the Kel Assouf trio into a sound half way between its Nigerien roots and 70’s rock, but also stoner rock, which is a music I played for many years. The rhythmic parts and synths show something from my electronic alter-ego AMMAR 808. I tried to tie together my disparate influences: electronic, ambient and rock. It was a natural thing to do after playing with Kel Assouf for all these years. The sound of the album is inspired from the musicians and their personalities, including myself.

Black Tenere swings back into rock grooves with “America” and “Amghar” before delving into the deliciously trippy “Ariyal.” This track doesn’t really start, but unfolds by way of opening cymbals and drums before electronica and keyboards take over and finally guitar lines emerge. By the time the full throat of the song emerges “Ariyal” is all savage coolness. Perhaps one of my own favorites on Black Tenere is “Taddout.” With spacey electronica and keyboards opening into lanky, open sky guitar licks and rolling rhythm “Taddout” comes across as preciously personal as intimate vocals sing about desert life with the lyrics”

I follow the traces of antelopes,
I live in the desert and its storms,
my favorite flower is that of acacia. It’s called Tabsit.
Its perfume is that of freedom and loneliness,
Far from the tumult of city life.

It is Anana Ag Haroun who sums it up, “Music is a weapon of war without violence. It is a claim for justice and it is also the soul of humanity. It brings together human beings from different cultures and different languages and from different countries. If we were to invest more in culture today and less in weapons, the world would be different. Music is peace for our souls.

Buy Black Tenere


Tuareg guitar Hero Mdou Moctar to Perform at Gramps in Miami

Mdou Moctar

One of the rising stars of Tuareg desert blues, Mdou Moctar, is set to perform on Friday, January 18, 2019 at Gramps in Miami.

Nigerien Mdou Moctar is in position to become the next big guitar hero in Saharan Tuareg music, following in the footsteps of Tinariwen and Bombino. His discography includes Sousoume Tamachek and Afelan.

This concert is a part of Rhythm Foundation’s Festival in the Desert Caravan concert series.
10:00 pm – 11:59 pm

Doors Open: 9pm, Show Time: 10pm– Free with RSVP


Artist Profiles: Toumast


Toumast was founded in the 90’s around Moussa Ag Keyna. In 1993, after years of combat and resistance, Moussa was severely wounded and evacuated to France, later joined by Aminatou Goumar. His encounter with composer, arranger and producer Dan Levy in Paris was the starting point to the recording of the album Ishumar (2007).

It is a testimony about the years of combat and disillusion experienced by the Tuaregs. The songs contain topics precious to the Ishumar: the nostalgia of the nomadic life, love, the bitter taste of exile and the criticism of politics.


Ishumar (Real World Records, 2007)
Amachal (Green United Music, 2009)


Artist Profiles: Etran Finatawa

Etran Finatawa

Etran Finatawa combines the rich nomadic cultures of the Tuareg and Wodaabe people from the West African country of Niger. For thousands of years, the region has served as a crossroads between the Arabs of North Africa and the sub-Saharan traditions.

Etran Finatawa mix traditional instruments with electric guitars, combining the polyphonic songs of the Wodaabe people with modern arrangements, and transporting you to the Sahara with their evocative sound.


Introducing Etran Finatawa (Riverboat Records, 2006)
Desert Crossroads (Riverboat Records, 2008)
Tarkat Tajje / Let’s Go (Riverboat Records, 2010)
The Sahara Sessions (Riverboat Records, 2013)


Nigerien Desert Blues Trio Anewal to Perform in New York


Anewal, a new Tuareg act led by Alhousseini Anivolla, former lead guitarist and singer of Etran Finatawa, is set to perform on Thursday, December 7, 2017 at (le) poisson rouge in Manhattan.

Anewal will present the hypnotic desert blues sound of the Tamashek people of the Sahara.

Alhousseini Anivolla released an album titled Anewal/The Walking Man.

dj.henri will spin music at 7:00 p.m. before Anewal’s 8:00 p.m. set.

Thursday, December 7, 2017, 7:00 p.m.
Anewal (Etran Finatawa)
(le) poisson rouge
158 Bleecker St, Manhattan


Tamikrest, The Sahara Desert as a Place of Freedom

Tamikrest – Kidal (Glitterbeat Records, 2017)

Sitting back and listening to the latest recording Kidal by Mali’s desert blues/rock group Tamikrest, I wondered if I would have even heard about the continuing struggles of the Tuareg and other desert peoples if it weren’t for the lush music spilling out of the Sahara by way of groups like Tamikrest and other musician groups like Terakaft, Tinariwen and Etran Finatawa or the powerful Sahrawi singer and musician Mariem Hassan. Sadly, I think few would even know that people live and travel these remote parts of the Sahara much less know about the struggle to maintain their nomadic identity if it weren’t for the music.

Fortunately for us Glitterbeat Records has got all the little music junkies out there covered with Tamikrest and their latest Kidal set for release on March 17th. Following up on previous recordings Adagh, Toumastin, Chatma and Taksera, Tamikrest again wraps up listeners in the familiar sleek guitars, rolling rhythms and meaty vocals on Kidal.

Recorded in Bamako, Mali, Kidal gets some extra special treatment with producer Mark Mulholland from Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra and mixer David Odlum who earned a Grammy for his work with the group Tinariwen. Two years in the making, Kidal is worth every single track.

Tamikrest leader Ousmane Ag Mossa says of the recording, “Kidal talks about dignity. We consider the desert as an area of freedom to live in. But many people consider it as just a market to sell multinational companies, and for me, that is a major threat to the survival of our nomadic people.”

Opening with those familiar desert blues riffs on “Mawarniha Tartit,” Tamikrest lays down a sound that’s hypnotic and driven. Packed with guitar, percussion and drums, Kidal kicks some serious rock riffs. Tracks like “Manhouy Inerizhan,” “War Toyed” and “War Tila Eridaran” are brilliantly fiery, but its tracks like slower and bluesy “Atwitas” that blow the listener away with its sleek, edgy guitar, laced in kora lines and roughed over vocals.

Kidal is chocked full of goodies like the acoustic guitar led “Tanakra,” the fabulously trippy and immensely satisfying “Ehad Wad Nadorhan” and the folksy, homey “Erres Hin Atouan” with its call and response vocals. There’s also the rocking “Adoutat Salilagh” and the sweetly worked closing track “Adad Osan Itibat” to satisfy all your desert blues/rock needs.

Kidal is power to the people through music and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Buy Kidal in the Americas

Buy Kidal in Europe


Tinariwen Release Advance of ‘Sastanàqqàm’, the first single from forthcoming new album Elwan

Tinariwen - Photo by Thomas Dorn
Tinariwen – Photo by Thomas Dorn

Malian desert blues band Tinariwen has released a video advance of ‘Sastanàqqàm,’ the first single from the band’s upcoming new album, Elwan, scheduled for release released on February 10th 2017 on Wedge.

In 2014, Tinariwen stopped at Rancho de la Luna studios in the desert of California’s Joshua Tree National Park. Guitarist Matt Sweeny, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kurt Vile, musician and vocalist Alan Johannes recorded sessions with the Malian band, engineered by Andrew Schepps, who has worked with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Johnny Cash, and Jay Z.

Two years later in M’Hamid El Ghizlane, an oasis in southern Morocco, near the Algerian frontier, Tinariwen set up their tents to record, accompanied by the local musical youth and a Ganga ensemble of Gnawa musicians.

Buy Elwan


Transglobal World Music Chart for June 2016

Turareg musician Bombino continues to dominate the Transglobal World Music Chart with a repeat number 1 spot in June 2016.

1. Bombino – Azel (Partisan Records)
2. Lakou Mizik – Wa Di Yo (Cumbancha)
3. Aziza Brahim – Abbar el Hamada (Glitterbeat Records)
4. 2016: Afro Celt Sound System – The Source – ECC Records
5. Yo-Yo Ma & Silk Road Ensemble – Sing Me Home (Sony Masterworks)
6. Anoushka Shankar – Land of Gold (Deutsche Grammophon)
7. La Banda Morisca – Algarabya (Fol Música)
8. Konono Nº1 meets Batida – Konono Nº1 meets Batida (Crammed Discs)
9. Damir Imamović’s Sevdah Takht – Dvojka (Glitterbeat Records)
10. Fanfare Ciocărlia – Onwards to Mars! (Asphalt Tango Records)
11. Elza Soares – The Woman at the End of the World / A Mulher do Fim do Mundo (Mais Um Discos)
13. The Gloaming – 2 (Real World Records)
14. DagaDana – Meridian 68 (Karrot Kommando)
15. Rokia Traoré – Né So (Nonesuch Records)
16. Quintet Bumbac – Libre Voyage dans les Musiques des Balkans (Collectif Çok Malko)
17. Deolinda – Outra Histórias (Universal Music)
18. V.A. – Every Song Has its End: Sonic Dispatches from Traditional Mali (Glitterbeat Records)
19. Ana Alcaide – Leyenda (ARC Music)
20. M.A.K.U. Soundsystem – Mezcla (Glitterbeat Records)


Transglobal World Music Chart for May 2016

Azel, the new album by Nigerien guitarist, singer-songwriter and composer Bombino has reached the top of the Transglobal World Music Chart in May 2016.

May 2016 Chart

1. Bombino – Azel (Partisan Records)
2. Aziza Brahim – Abbar el Hamada (Glitterbeat Records)
3. Rokia Traoré – Né So (Nonesuch Records)
4. La Banda Morisca – Algarabya (Fol Música)
5. Konono Nº1 meets Batida – Konono Nº1 meets Batida (Crammed Discs)
6. Lakou Mizik – Wa Di Yo (Cumbancha)
7. Fanfare Ciocărlia – Onwards to Mars! (Asphalt Tango Records)
8. The Gloaming – 2 (Real World Records)
9. Stefano Saletti & Banda Ikona – Soundcity – Finisterre
10. Katerina Tsiridou – Aman Katerina: A Tribute to Panayiotis Toundas (Protasis Music)
11. Sociedade Recreativa – Sociedade Recreativa (La Chaudière Production / Jarring Effects)
12. Damir Imamović’s Sevdah Takht – Dvojka (Glitterbeat Records)
13. V.A. – Every Song Has its End: Sonic Dispatches from Traditional Mali (Glitterbeat Records)
14. Las Hermanas Caronni – Navega Mundos (Les Grands Fleuves)
15. Anoushka Shankar – Land of Gold (Deutsche Grammophon)
16. DagaDana – Meridian 68 (Karrot Kommando)
17. Sidestepper – Supenatural Love (Real World Records)
18. Elza Soares – The Woman at the End of the World / A Mulher do Fim do Mundo (Mais Um Discos)
19. Karsh Kale – Up (Six Degrees Records)
20. Päre – Hausjärvi Beat (Zebo Records)

21. 2016: Afro Celt Sound System – The Source (ECC Records)
22. Pedro Soler & Gaspar Claus – Al Viento (InFiné)
23. Pulsar Trio – Cäthes traum (T3 Records)
24. Filippo Gambetta – Otto Baffi (Filippo Gambetta)
25. Eva Salina – Lema Lema: Eva Salina Sings Šaban Bajramović (Vogiton Records)
26. Manuel Volpe & Rhabdomantic Orchestra – Albore (Agogo Records)
27. Zulya and the Children of the Underground – On Love and Science (Zulya and the Children of the Underground)
28. Amsterdam Klezmer Band – Oyoyoy (Amsterdam Klezmer Band)
29. Vesevo – Vesevo (Agualoca Records)
30. Michael Messer’s Mitra – Call of the Blues (Knife Edge Records)
31. Osei Korankye – Seperewa of Ghana: Ɛmmerɛ nyina nsɛ (Akwaaba Music)
32. Vigüela – Temperamento (ARC Music)
33. Ex aequo:
Josemi Carmona & Javier Colina – De Cerca (Universal Music Spain)
Galandum Galundaina – Quatrada (Açor)
35. Claudia Aurora – Mulher do Norte (Red Orange Recordings)
36. Joseph Tawadros – World Music (Joseph Tawadros)
37. Rocky Marsiano – Meu Kamba Vol. Dois (Akwaaba Music)
38. Kimi Djabaté – Kanamalu (Red Orange Recordings)
39. Seheno – Hazo Kely (Lokanga)
40. Afenginn – Opus (Tutl / Westpark Music)



In 2007, several Tuareg groups rebelled in Niger and in Mali. It was the not the very first instance of Tuareg rebellion in Niger and in Mali and the same had happened and belongs to a history of Tuareg rebellion in the region. The Tuareg are an ambitious people forever in search of a new political reality and the project can only influence their cultural ambitions.

Tuaregs produce many great musicians and one of them is Bombino. Bombino’s most recent album Azel, released on Partisan Records on April 1, is an album abundant in beautiful guitar playing. The fact that Bombino sings as he plays the guitar makes this an album that will be partially misunderstood by any English speaker, unless if the songs’ Tamasheq (Tuareg language) lyrics are translated. However, it is possible to be fully invested in this album without understanding the lyrics.


Bombino - Azel width=


The album’s abundance of guitar playing is the most striking part of the whole affair and delivers an incredible experience for the listener. The word abundance is generally used to denote a very large quantity of something in a positive way; an abundance of anything alludes to an amount of wealth.

Abundance can get very close to being saturation and is a balancing act if being purposely produced. In music, when it’s good, an abundance of anything is celebrated by most. Minimalism is often applauded by professional critics but never as popular as rhythmic, melodic, harmonic abundance, or the abundance of a single instruments participation in a song. It’s hard to pull off however and can become very annoying.



An economy of instrument playing is easier to pull off. In the societies of less developed countries, a song’s abundance can make heroes of out certain musicians: an abundance of chords or poetry in a song’s lyrics can momentarily change day to day morbidity or hardship or affirm one’s existence.

This album is not what is expected from Tuareg music and it’s clear that Bombino did not want this album to be. Bombino combines American idioms with African string playing. He does this with erudition and by never once seeming not confident in his aesthetic.

Azel is an album to listen to attentively.