Tamikrest: Kidal

Desert struggles make for purposeful rock and roll on Tamikrest's latest album of Saharan desert blues.



Label: Glitterbeat
US Release Date: 2017-03-17
UK Release Date: 2017-03-17
Artist website

Tamikrest's newest album, Kidal, is named for the West African band's hometown, an oft-embattled commune in the vast deserts of northern Mali. Kidal has long been a cultural center of the region, and although it's home of uprisings and war, it's also a source of strength for the Tuareg people who live there and, at one point, claimed it as part of an independent state. As such, this album is a tribute to Kidal and its people. In welcoming us to Kidal, Tamikrest gives us the chance to hear the group at its strongest, free in a familiar setting. Roots are explored, current events are addressed, and Tamikrest’s members have a personal passion for every subject they approach -- in addition to a wide range of skills.

A massive boulder marks the road into Kidal, painted with the town’s name in both the Latin alphabet and the Tifinagh abjad. Stark and imposing in the arid landscape, it makes for a perfect visual representation of the music on Kidal, which begins with a sharp Saharan twang. From there, Kidal sees Tamikrest doing what they do best: exploring every style under the sun with expert technique. North African styles abound; for instance, the melancholic “Ehad Wad Nadorhan” evokes late nights in Algeria, while acoustic closer “Adad Osan Itibat” is as pure a desert blues track as there ever was.

Above all, though, Tamikrest plays what Tamikrest loves, and influences from outside their home continent are equally audible. The wistful introduction to “Tanakra” lands somewhere between “Dust in the Wind” and “California Dreamin’”, and “War Tila Eridaran” layers heavy chords over kicking reggae beats. Restless “Wainan Adobat” brings outlaw country to a whole new desert with the kind of credibility that comes from actually knowing what it’s like to have to be ready to fight the established order. Near the middle of the album, “Atwitas” is the last word in rock and roll, with kora lines glittering around a bluesy, Hendrix-esque guitar solo. It’s one of the album’s most electrifying moments.

Singer and lead guitarist Ousmane Ag Mossa notes that writing a tribute to the strength and history of Kidal could only have been done in Kidal. He’s absolutely right: Kidal paints such an authentic picture of life, suffering, and strength that it could only have been done by someone who knows and loves the area inside and out, like Mossa himself. Every facet of his vision rings in the heavy drumbeats, in his world-weary notes, and in the diversity and clarity of the many strings that make up each melody. Add to that some extra electronic effects (mostly echoes of different shapes and sizes) and the atmosphere is haunting. This is Kidal: rugged beauty, destruction and loss, and resilience.

Kidal doesn’t sound like a fight. There are such gentle moments mixed in with the bittersweet and so many steady rhythms that move each track forward. Mossa’s voice is weighty with feeling, yet not overtly aggressive. But Kidal is, in many ways, a direct action against injustice. It’s a show of patriotism, and, given the government-imposed ban on secular music only recently lifted in Mali, a potentially dangerous one. It's a potent act of defiance against oppression and violence, a renewal of tradition, and a vision for the future. It's country, rock, folk, reggae, and blues from a place that knows the value of musical freedom.

It's Kidal: heart, soul, and sand.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.