Bridging the gap between African traditional music and American blues and rock influences, Tamikrest are a group from the Western African nation of Mali. Tamikrest's sound speaks of a global perspective, but the group's lyrical message is a reflection of the violence and chaos that have been visited upon their homeland, and their profound desire for peace and unity. Tamikrest were founded by guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist Ousmane Ag Mossa, who as a member of the Tuareg people of the Southern Sahara has faced discrimination and witnessed war in his hometown of Kidal nearly all his life. Inspired by Tinariwen, another Tuareg group from Mali that had found an international audience, Ousmane Ag Mossa formed Tamikrest (which in the Malian language of Tamashek translates as "the knot" or "the junction") in 2006. Growing up in a region that was stricken by political instability and drought, Ag Mossa learned to play guitar as a boy, and initially he and his bandmates played music modeled on Tuareg folk styles. However, as Ag Mossa began soaking up influences from Western artists he discovered on well-worn cassettes or MP3s -- Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and Mark Knopfler among them -- the group's style began to evolve. In 2008, Tamikrest were invited to perform at a Malian music festival, Festival au Desert, where they crossed paths with a American-Australian group called Dirtmusic. The members of Tamikrest and Dirtmusic became fast friends, and in 2009, when Dirtmusic traveled to Mali to record an album, Tamikrest were invited to participate in the project. Chris Eckman, a member of Dirtmusic, offered to produce an album for Tamikrest, and their first full-length release, Adagh, was released in 2010. The album was distributed by Glitterhouse, a German label specializing in indie rock and roots rock music, and with their help Tamikrest found themselves touring in Europe, where their music won new fans. Tamikrest teamed up with Eckman to produce their second studio effort, 2011's Toumastin, while in 2013 they released Chatma (meaning "sisters," with the songs commenting on the travails of Tuareg women). Chatma earned enthusiastic press in Europe and the U.K., and the group set out on more global touring in support; an appearance at the Burg Herzberg Festival in Alsfeld, Germany in August 1, 2014 was released as a live album, Taksera. In the summer of 2016, Tamikrest returned to the studio with producer Mark Mulholland to record their fourth studio album. Kidal, a concept album about Ousmane Ag Mossa's hometown, was released in March 2017.
© Mark Deming /TiVo
© Mark Deming /TiVo
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Africa - Released April 22, 2011 | Glitterbeat Records
The term desert blues has become useful shorthand for those Touareg guitar bands from the Sahara whose music is stripped down and bare. While it's certainly a catch-all phrase, it picks up on the similarities between the bands -- which are largely cultural -- while not allowing for their differences. Tamikrest, the youngest of the genre, also rock the hardest, with heavier bass and more oomph in their sound. In part that's due to using a producer whose life has been spent in rock bands (Chris Eckman of the Walkabouts and Dirtmusic), but it also reflects the ethos of the bandmembers themselves. And it's certainly not all blues-like (the real similarity is in the fact they use electric guitars and a pentatonic scale). You'd be hard-pressed to discover any blues in the beautiful space of "Dihad Tedoun Itran," while "Nak Akaline Tinza (Tinzaouatene)" is eerily like the Velvet Underground. The guitar work creates moods and shades that echo the distances of the desert, while the pace is that of the camel, never hurried. They might not be a rock & roll band (and why should they want to be?), but there's definitely a rock band that's part of Tamikrest on this second album. © Chris Nickson /TiVo