Tamikrest: Desert blues in the longing for Tuareg freedom

Tamikrest: Desert blues in the longing for Tuareg freedom
3 min read
15 April, 2020
The New Arab Meets: Saharan desert blues band Tamikrest, whose fifth album Tamotaït offers songs of freedom and resistance from the painful longing of exile.
Tamikrest have returned with their new record, Tamotaït.

Saharan desert blues band Tamikrest have returned with their new record, Tamotaït. With this being their fifth album, it's not so much a body of work about music as it is a message of politics, freedom and resistance.  

And that's especially the case with this album, as "Tamotaït means hope for a positive change," Ousmane Ag Mossa, the singer, guitarist and songwriter, told The New Arab. "The definition of the album is there in its title." 

The band themselves are from Kidal, Mali. But for much of the last decade, its founding members have lived in Tamanrasset, Algeria, Paris and along the desolate Malian borderlands. Because of the deadly regional conflict, the founding members of Tamikrest have not resided in their hometown.  

The band began in 2007 where their nomadic people have been fighting for their own independent state, which has been denied to them.  

And their message after 13 years hasn't changed either, according to Ousmane. "Did the situation in my home region change? No, so my message hasn't changed either." 

This latest album has Japanese orchestrations and acclaimed Moroccan singer Hind Zahra on one track guesting with vocals. And pushing forward with being cutting-edge is essential to the group, finding innovative new styles with Tamotaït. 

"It's the heart of Tamikrest nowadays," explained Ousmane Ag Mossa. "Our music is a reflection of the background of the members; everybody brings his tradition and culture and personal flavour in the project." 

"This is really nice and interesting and brings the band to what the group is today, a desert rock band. Furthermore, we really, really like collaborations with other musicians. The partnerships with the artists on our album are just wonderful," he added. 

"We are a band, and when we play together, everyone brings their way of playing. For the compositions, some pieces start from a riff, another part from a melody or a rhythm and each musician adds his input afterwards.

The idea was to keep a common thread that comes from 
Tamasheq music and to take it through different worlds, whether they come from our influences or from our encounters during our travels." 

With our album and our music, we want to raise awareness for our cause

As for the overall concept and theme of Tamotaït, they revolve around travelling, as Ousmane says that he likes living as a nomad. "I don't have a fixed place to stay. I got inspired during my travels. It's a reflection of this process."

But at this time, travel is hampered thanks to the Covid 19 outbreak worldwide, which is another major setback. If armed conflict, resistance and politics weren't bad enough, coronavirus now brings everything to a standstill. 

"It's still a difficult situation," Ousmane explains. "As you can imagine, our supplies and equipment here are insufficient to cope with this new virus. It's difficult as well to inform people about the appropriate things they should do. I can only hope that this crisis will not be used by political regimes to abuse their power even more.

But yes, we are supposed to be in lockdown as well, but it's hard for people to stay at home, without going out for food and work." 

And as for positives and looking to the future, what do Tamikrest hope for? For Ousmane it's a straightforward answer and almost a very predictable one. 

"An independent state, where my people can decide what's best for them, to maintain our culture and tradition without the interference of other regimes or political oppression of whatsoever," he told TNA 

"With our album and our music, we want to raise awareness for our cause. We truly hope that our album will be appreciated. We are extremely proud of it." 

Yousif Nur is a journalist who writes freelance for various publications including the Guardian, Dazed and Confused and Notion Magazine. He writes mostly about music

Follow him on Twitter: @yousifnur

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