The third album by Tamikrest shows a band continuing to improve, to evolve – and that’s all the more remarkable when you consider the group is in exile, having fled to Algeria to record this album in dedication to the women – and the role of women – in Tourareg society. That’s something I can’t really get my head around, to be honest. But before I read through the album’s back story, its context, there was the music. And of course, though once you know the story it’s hard to ignore it – it’s where this music comes from – any return to the album, to actually listening to the music, gives a chance to soak in the sounds, the rolling groove of rubbery guitars with their Western African version of folk-blues. You can hear some of the sounds that Ry Cooder and Richard Thompson have made their own on the opener, Tisnant an Chatma, later with Itous it’s percussion and bass that make the mark for the vocals but it’s guitar that drives the album for the most part.
Djanegh Etoumast is a blues boogie, a world music disco; Assikal features the snake-winding wisps of guitar that brought the desert blues sound to Robert Plant, or brought Robert Plant to the desert blues sound.
Similar to Tinariwen but with more of a focus on the hypnotic grooves (Takma’s Afrobeat pattern all but falls in on itself, rebuilding with the passing of each measure) Tamikrest’s finest album was borne from unrest and political upheaval, the likes of which readers of these pages will likely never know (and should be all the more thankful for that fact). This music arrives, sounding wonderful, feeling precious. It’s a message in a bottle. A statement of believe; a heartbeat, lifeblood; reason for the musicians to keep living. And it’s an album that quietly stuns – as a result of everything that went into it. But also as a result of all that comes from it.