Tamasheq Omran’s “Abuji” Album: Thinking Outside the Box

“Abouji” is the latest release of the Algerian southern band Tamasheq Amrane. Through their music, the band helps preserve the culture and history of their Tuareg people. Written by Richard Marcus

In early 2019, Omrane set up his first professional recording studio in Tamanrasset, the group’s birthplace, naming it after the historic dwellings once used by nomads on their caravan routes – apogee. The album’s name refers not only to the cultural history of its people, but also to the sense of impermanence that is inherent in many indigenous peoples around the world. because they are too apogee They were not permanent structures. Instead, it was disassembled and moved when needed.

However, like the other musicians in Tamshek, this band is definitely here to stay. While their peoples are no longer openly in opposition, they still suffer greater economic hardship than other populations in the region. People are forced to abandon their traditional Bedouin life in the desert and move to the cities. But there is little hope for a better future. The resulting void leaves many of today’s generation without hope.

Not least because of this that there are teams like Imarhan. Many of those who joined extremist forces in northern Mali are frustrated youth. In addition to money and weapons, the extremists also offer young people a goal – albeit a ridiculous one, such as hunting down Tuareg musicians.

Omaran’s musicians hope to use their music to reverse the influence of these and other forces. Music should convey dignity and pride, but it should also serve as a reminder. Proud of who the Tuareg are as a people and a reminder to stand up for their own values. Because these are not the values ​​of those who glorify violence.

But Imarhan’s inspiration is not just the past. Whatever tradition is important. With their focus on the past, they can blind people to the new reality.

Bedouin life is a thing of the past. Today there are almost no longer caravanserais carrying goods across deserts with their beauty. Of course, important lessons should not be forgotten, for example about respecting the country and its fellow human beings.

love of country and people

If you want to connect the past with the future, you need to be able to look outside the box and look for influences and inspiration there – and also from other people who represent the same values ​​but offer different perspectives.

In their collaboration with Welsh singer Gruff Rhys they are Imarhan with their album apogee I went exactly this way. In the song “Adar Newlan”, Reiss sings about the value of family in his Welsh homeland.

Like the Tamasheq, the Welsh have a long history of defending their language and culture from incursion. So family ties are not an empty concept for them. Indigenous peoples all over the world have a lot in common: It may sound strange, but this surprising association makes sense.

The song is a mixture of different styles without sounding like typical desert blues. Once you listen, the similarities in feelings and moods become apparent.

Apart from being sung in Welsh, the song expresses the same love for the country and the people that Tuareg bands often sing about. This comprehensiveness is not only important to the musicians of two years in order not to stagnate artistically. It is also necessary for the development of their culture. For it is from the search for complementary effects that touch on the same subjects that growth and regeneration come.

There are other guests. If not from afar Wales. Sudanese artist Sulafa Elias has previously collaborated with Omran. It enriches this album with a poignant contribution to the Arabic singer’s song “Tagdart”, and is a testament to the fact that the band is not just another desert blues band.

The music is more intense and meditative than the music used by bands from the sub-Saharan region. Even those who don’t speak Arabic or Tamasheq can feel the depth of this music. Whisper to us like the wind blowing across the desert sands. In doing so, it conjures images of twilights as the region prepares for the onset of night.

“Give room for sun and sand”

Omaran is definitely still one of the prominent representatives of desert blues music. The group doesn’t stray too far from those roots on the new album, either. The song “Achinkad” nicely shows how complex and intoxicating the genre can be. Acoustic guitar and synchronized drums seem like an acoustic accompaniment at first, until the acoustic harmonies expand and the electric guitar takes the main role.

The higher the intensity of the melody, the more the passion of the song was captured by us. We can guess what the band’s leader, Liad Musa bin Abdul Rahman, means by saying that the band wants to “give space for wind and natural energies like sun and sand. We want to express their colors through music.”

This is a big claim. But the music on this album has the power to transport us to a different place. The album is full of magic and brings us closer to a world that is still unknown to most of us.

with apogee Omran has established themselves as one of the leading teams in the sub-Saharan region. Musicians, like other sons of each Tamasheq, focus on preserving their culture and the place of their people in today’s world. By incorporating music from outside their community, they make this album a truly global work.

If you haven’t heard desert blues before or don’t know the magic of music from this region, you are there apogee Great start. But be warned: once you start, you won’t want to stop. It’s addictive.

Richard Marcus

© Qantara.de 2022

Translated from the English by Peter Lammers

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