2007 is shaping up to be the year of the Touareg takeover. Fortunately the appetite for the heavy, bluesy, desert rock made famous by Tinariwen is matched by the supply of fine bands.
Back in the nineties, Toumast was founded by Moussa Ag Kenya, a former rebel fighter, whose injuries led to him being evacuated to France. It was there he met producer Dan Levy, leading eventually to this recording coming about. Ishumar is the name given to the economically displaced Touareg people following the carve up of their traditional lands into the formal states now known as Mail, Niger, Libya, Burkina Faso and Algeria.
The songs carry a substantial payload of longing and bitterness as you might expect. “All those hopes / The wind has swept them away / So many promises for our people / Who have suffered for so many years… / So many lies.” Or the even more melancholy: “Of my life among my companions / Today we are separated / They are gone / They no longer are / In my soul love is dead / Laughter is dead.”
All the elements made famous by Tinariwen are here, a similar blending of traditional and modern but with a little more lightness of touch musically present despite the heavy tone of the lyrics sung in French. ‘Ammilana’, from which the first bunch of lyrics is taken, shows a deft touch when it comes to harmonic vocals, offsetting a drone like quality to the music with the sweetness of the female vocal.
But just when you think you haave the measure of this album, track eight, ‘Kik Ayittma’ jumps out at you with a hint of Franco-punk attitude and some George Martinesque studio twiddling. Think Rachid Taha in Tamasek. Refreshing as the proverbial oasis.
This will certainly keep you going until the next Tinariwen album drops next year with its rumoured collaborations and intentions of grabbing the world of rock by the scruff of its neck.
Toumast — Ishumar is out now on Kraked