Aman Iman (Water is Life)
Aman Iman (Water is Life). Tinariwen. Independiente
The third bite of the apple for the Tuareg group Tinariwen comes after a great deal of international touring and acclaim. In their wake a lot of bands playing a similar spare desert blues style have released CDs, but they remain the assured, undoubted leaders of the pack. There’s still a breathtaking spontaneity about the music (perfectly displayed by “Ahimana”), but there’s also a strong discipline and economy to the sound. It’s all wonderfully layered, built around hypnotic rhythms or guitar riffs, whether on the rolling “Toumast” or the slower “Soixante Trois,” with a natural sense of vast spaces in their playing that carries the listener into the grandeur of the alien landscape that fills “Imidiwan Winakalin.” They can become surprisingly funky, as on “Tamatant Tilay,” before bringing everything gently to rest with the acoustic “Izarharh Tenere,” a lilting, glistening pillow of a song. Listening to them is like hearing the raw, primal roots of rock’n’roll, finding the Ur-text of modern musical history, a wonderful voyage of discovery that leaves your sense of the world slightly changed. That’s a tall order for any group, but these nomads manage it. The only problem is, that’s a huge responsibility to live up to in future. (MA08)
Amassakoul. Tinariwen. World VillageTuareg nomads from Western Sahara, the members of Tinariwen grew up in the 1980’s in the refugee camps of Libya, where they began making music. This is their second album, and it refines the fire of the first, refracting monochordal blues and resonant, often primal desert rock through the prism of their own wandering experiences. The roots of the blues—indeed, of most western music—are exposed here. (SO04)
Among Brothers. Abdelli. Real World
The idea of a Berber singer recording with musicians in all of Cape Verde, Azerbaijan and Burkina Faso in order to create wide-ranging musical fusion could be a recipe for an intercultural disaster. But with a firm grip on its Maghrebi roots, the other cultures provide musical colors and textures that reach and branch out in surprising, even loving directions. Much credit is due to Abdelli’s focused writing and profound sense of melody, and his ability to maintain a desert rawness in his voice while making it easily accessible to western ears. This agile balancing act works well. (MA04)
Arabian Masters, volumes 1 and 2. Various artists.. 2002, EMI Arabia
Thanks to emi Arabia’s ambition to bring 20th-century classical Arab music to the western market, here are starters for a serious library. The “Arabian Masters” volumes are double-cd compilations, four disks in all, with selections from a dozen artists altogether, many of whom are also represented at greater length on the individual artist cds. However, be warned: The sleeve notes are perfunctory, there are no recording details, and the recordings themselves have sketchy moments. Hopefully future additions to this important series will show improvements. (At press time, this collection is not yet available through us distributors.) (MA03)

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