In English, the word ‘tamikrest’ means ‘junction’ – in this case the coming together of individual musicians from Algeria, Niger and Mali. Their need to assume a Tuareg identity is identified both in their music and the slogan “a desert holds us, a language unites us, a culture binds us.”
For Western ears the inevitable comparison will be their fellow desert tribesmen Tinariwen, whose music has made such a heavy impact in its fusion of African culture and an ever so slightly Westernised take on the blues.
The music Tamikrest make is almost as striking, if not perhaps as explicitly bluesy. Although the first few tracks feel like a call to arms, and are wonderfully uplifting in that way, a greater sense of emotion can be found in Aratane N’Adagh, where Ousmane Ag Mossa’s guttural vocal is pitched against a single guitar and a light percussion.
Elsewhere the musicianship of the band is solemnly uplifting. Amidini has some nice guitar inflections, its rhythms leading to an almost involuntary case of head nodding. These rhythms are often in triple time and have an attractive lilt, helping the guitarist’s naturally spun yarns to unfold.
The sound is noticeably less edgy than Tinariwen, and becomes quite luscious in Tamiditin. Meanwhile when the group unite vocally there is a real sense of bridges being built, the graceful intonations acquiring a subtle power.
As the album progresses so does the sense of quiet contemplation and meditation, with occasional bursts of energy complemented by slower tracks with a lower vocal range. One such utterance, Toumastin, ends the album in an introvert but strangely uplifting fashion, the wandering guitar line providing a soft counterpoint.
This is, you will have guessed, a natural point in the onward journey for anyone who has heard the music of Tinariwen and wishes to travel further into the region. The two bands shouldn’t be put against each other, but complement each other’s style, and only add to the desire for more music from Northern Africa to be released.