Tamikrest – Chatma (Glitterhouse/Planet Company)


Mali sextet Tamikrest have long been heralded as the new generation of Tuareg music, the most logical successor to the much-lauded elder statesmen Tinariwen. Tinariwen’ Mali blues, the Hendrix inspired electric guitar licks, deep earthy grooves and djembe hand percussion seemed to innately capture the toil, the sorrow and beauty of the desert like few had before, and saw them touring the world and collaborating with western artists like members of TV on the Radio.

Tamikrest’s previous two albums, whilst touching upon similar themes and approaches to Tinariwen always seemed in thrall of their elder compatriots, a comparatively safer version, somehow lacking in their own distinctive identity.

Chatma is a revelation in their development, it sees them break out from Tinariwen’ shadow and create an album that is distinctively their own – and distinctively great. The key to Chatma is their desire to touch upon multiple styles in order to develop their music – everything from reggae to psychedelia. It’s not that suddenly hitting reggae basslines and guitar licks makes their music legitimate, rather when pared with the least reggae vocals you could possibly imagine on Itous, it creates a whole new form. They’re not forgoing their past here, this is their past and future all wrapped up as one.

Political instability and the introduction of Sharia in Northern Mali law has seen the majority of the band relocate to Algeria to escape the violence, yet its within these troubled times they’ve also produced the best album of their short career. Chatma means sisters, and this album is a dedication to the toil of the Tuareg women.

The press release states their third album is filled with “sober reflection, moral indignation, musical experimentation, cultural celebration and the kick of rock and roll.” Sadly this mass of contradictions, that as the band are experiencing the excitement of expanding musically, their country is experiencing such dire social and political upheaval, and it actually makes for compelling urgent music.

The production is remarkable, there are some truly amazing sounds interplaying within the music, whether its traditional instrumentation like flutes, backward masked guitars or close mic’d vocals to enhance an occasional evocative spoken word delivery, Chatma is a fully realized statement. The other really interesting development are the female vocals from Wonou Walet Sidati, often only highlighting phrases of lead singer Ousmane Ag Mossa’ vocals, yet the effect is nothing short of transcendental when they play off each other.

For too long with Tamikrest it’s been about their potential, Chatma puts paid to that. This album is the delivery.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.