Algerian five-piece communicate universally emancipating, sentimental truths in support of new album Aboogi
Quasi anticipating some kind of Fourth World WOMAD style party, the expectant crowd at the Green Door Store were in for a winsome surprise on Saturday night as Algerian five piece Imarhan brought their new album Aboogi to town. Whereas their self titled debut and 2018’s Temet had flirted with adding funk and disco rhythms to their repertoire of desert afro blues, this latest record, recorded at their own home studio is a quieter, defiantly introspective work, filled with longing and ennui, seemingly made more to be heard by nomadic firelight than in some large tented festive gathering.
A young Eritrean lad and his inebriated friend were eagerly telling everyone at the back of the sold out venue as the support act played, that although the hard rocking Mdou Moctar were due to play town later in the year, it was Imarhan who they were most excited about seeing. When the band members began to mingle with the crowd the pair ran over, gushed and demanded photos be taken with their idols and as the musicians took their spaces on the way too small stage, the two fans disappeared forward into the throng ready to submit to the spirit of ecstasy on display.
The tender harmonies and quiet percussive sway of Asof quickly placated the hyperbolic attendees as they let their algorithm aggregated emotions subside and succumbed to the nomadic allure of the tracks calmly accelerating lamentations. Finely alternating chants and inquisitive polyrhythms circulated around frontman Sadam Ag Ibrahim as he built an imaginative connection with the captivated audience. The twisting riff of second song Laouni came close to giving the anticipatory masses something to dance to but a steady trickle of tracks like Tindjatan with its acoustic heart and subtle clapped melodies, oldie Tarha Nam and Imaslan N’Assouf got the best response, the latter slowly accelerating from mystical rumination to glistening ballad. Reading the room, the group did occasionally give the crowd a chance to get liberated. When they tore into faster older tracks like Imarhan and Tahabort, a field of scarves waved appreciatively in the air. And as the band paused to catch breath mid song, the uproarious crowd finished the rest of the chorus for them.
If you mentioned the word oasis to most ‘alternative’ music fans, they’d probably think instantly of those cringeworthy Mancunian dullards, who in an ironic twist always offered the opposite of what their band name meant; namely a place of rare and exquisite sustenance & fluidity within a seemingly lifeless landscape. Imarhan on the other hand, have lived their life in such a place and know intrinsically how to bring life to even the driest and spare of horizons. Whilst their vocabulary may have been somewhat unintelligible to most, the sentimental truths they communicated remained universally emancipating.