Although they will no doubt be compared to Tinariwen — Tartit have been around a similar length of time and sprang from the same experience of civil war and living in camps — theirs is a gentler but no less compelling sound
Unlike Tinariwen, this is a band where female voices dominate the proceedings. Much has been made of the fact that among the Kel Tamasek or Touaregs, it is the men not the women who tend to wear the veil. As tempting as this is as a metaphor, one suspects it is the practicalities of desert living that determine these things.
Nevertheless, Tartit employ a clearly feminine (if not necessarily feminist) agenda. Many of the songs are dominated by multi-part female chanting and hand claps suggesting, and at times delivering, a collective feminine wisdom.
The lyrics are a mixture of tales of belonging (to tribe, family and the Tamasek) and invocations to both men and women to behave better whether that be in working harder, being a good host or simply strutting your stuff with more grace than the next fella if you want to impress the women.
On Abacabok, the majority of songs employ a less amped approach to music, giving them a warmer and more traditional feel than the power sound of their Tamasek comrades. The tracks where guitars dominate seem to hint at the missing link between the sound of the late Ali Farka Toure from Mali’s south and the modern Touareg sound we have become accustomed to and associate with the Saharan north of the country and beyond.
Listening to Tartit as well as Etran Finatwa, Tinariwen and Toumast, it soon becomes evident that each have their own clearly defined sound and one can only hope that there is room for all in the international market.
Tartit — Abacabok is out on Crammed Discs