WKNH Music Director
The Kel Tamashek are a nomadic peoples from north-west Africa, inhabiting Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso predominantly. Their culture is tied heavily to the desert they have traversed as merchant, traders and warriors. For centuries, they were traders, farmers, and merchants of the Sahara. As colonialist forces began to hamper their nomadic existence, the Kel Tamashek began a long history of resisting these pressures. Through colonialism, and into the neo-colonialism days to today, the Kel Tamashek have resisted oppression via armed conflict. As technology advanced, and borders were drawn, the Kel Tamashek were driven into a place of deep poverty. From this rose a spirit of rebellion and wandering and pride. The word “Ishumar” as a phrase refers to young Kel Tamashek youth who wandered their region in search of employment and national pride. The term also came to encompass the militancy found in these youthful dissidents to colonial oppression. As the number of Tamashek making music increased, the term become more synonymous with the music these rebels were making with electric guitars in Gaddafi-sponsored military bases.
Now that this is understood: The record we’re looking at today is a modern masterpiece of Ishumar music. It is the futurist culmination of the genre. Surely not the final frontier, but the fathers that is to be seen as of right now. Recorded in Brussels, the record is brilliant sonically. It has the sharp guitar work Ishumar is known for, but possess a sonic clarity that is seldom seen in the genre. What it gives up in a raw grit it makes up for in its pleasurable listening experience, while still maintaining a driving sound. This record, after all, freaking rocks. For what can be said about the throbbing bass synths, lush organs and the subtle ambience that permeates the record, the bottom line is that it rocks. The drums punch big and clear and drive fast. At times, its like you’re speeding through the Sahara, at midnight, in a Jeep with no roof, just a roll cage. All the beautiful things that make Ishumar music what it is are here: The loving hypnotic guitar, stabbing phrases, syncopated odd meter drums. It’s all here, just thrown into the future. Advanced, pushed, in so many ways—one being how this music dissolves borders. The record was made in Europe, the drummer—Oliver Penu—is from Brussels. The producer and keyboardist—Sofyann Ben Youssef—is Tunisian. The front man and guitarist—Anana Ag Haroun—is from Niger. This record also puts its influence across borders. The record has a heavy debt to classic American rock as well as Electronic and ambient musics from across the globe.
On top of rocking, on top of pushing an essential music genre to new places—heck, it pushes a few genres to new places—this record is just expressive as all get out. There are times where I can know a record is amazing, but it just doesn’t sink into my heart and become a repeat listen. That is not the case with this album. The expression, the breadth of expression displayed on this album, ensure repeat listens. It taps the humanity of the musicians, their experiences, and transmutes them wonderfully across the run of the record. The lows are not sappy or overly low, and the highs, if they are exhausting, are exhausting in the best ways. This record breaks the mold, but is not trying to frighten anyone away. This record is trying to get everyone to dance. It invites all comers. It invites you.
Coraline Seksinsky can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org