Desert Blues

Aman Iman: Water is Life

Pitchfork reviewer Joel Tangari has a nice historical overview of the music from the Sahara, including one of my favorite African based bands, Tinariwen.

The roots of today’s Kel Tamashek guitar revolution lie in varied soil. From a purely musical standpoint, it descends from traditional chant music played on distant relatives of the guitar, which in turn draws from sources north and south. The music of Al Andalus to the north– a family of sounds extending from flamenco in Spain through Arabesque and Berber orchestras in North Africa and Lebanese string music– is one source of input, while the myriad musics of the Sahel, a semi-arid band of land that spans Africa to the south of the Sahara, are also close relatives.

The pentatonic scales echo those heard along the curve of the Niger River, and it’s easy to draw a line through the music of Senegal, Guinea, southern Mali, and other parts of West Africa straight to American blues. This YouTube video isn’t much to look at, but it’s soundtracked by a Tamashek chant recorded in the 1930s that offers a good glimpse of the connection between traditional Kel Tamashek music and the modern, electrified version (I believe the stringed instrument is a tehardent, a three-stringed lute related to the ngoni and ultimately the guitar):

[Check it out Pitchfork Feature: Rebel Blues in the Sahara: A Desert Guitar Primer]

There is a certain ineffable quality to music of the desert, a rough-hewn beauty. Perhaps due to the dual desert heritage of my name (ancient Hebrew, ancient Egypt), perhaps for deeper DNA related reasons, but the music of the Sahara, and nearby, resonates in my soul.

  1. repost from my old blog []

1 thought on “Desert Blues

  1. Mike Cohen says:

    I just ordered their new album from Amazon today. Too bad I couldn’t find a digital download either there, from eMusic, or as a last resort from iTunes.

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