“The backstory of Tinariwen founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib is so cinematic in scope that it should be the basis for an epic independent film. The Mali native was only 4 when he watched as soldiers executed his father, a Tuareg rebel, during an uprising in the early ’60s.
Later in childhood, Ag Alhabib saw a Western film where a cowboy played a guitar; he was so intrigued he fashioned his own instrument out of a tin can, a stick and a piece of bicycle brake cable.
By the late ’70s, Ag Alhabib had learned many Tuareg Folk melodies and modern Arabic Pop songs during his time in Libyan and Algerian refugee camps, and had obtained an actual acoustic guitar from a local Arab man. He joined forces with other musicians in the Tuareg rebel community to form a band in order to play parties and weddings, which locals dubbed Kel Tinariwen, loosely translated as ‘The People of the Desert…’
“It amazes me that music from the deserts of Mali can connect so easily to urban 20-year-old Americans. But the music of Terakaft is not so different from many western bands making droney, psychedelic sounds. The group’s guitar-based music is made from the same stuff, that hypnotic tension you can hear in American bands such as Television from the late 1970s, or Jimi Hendrix from the late 1960s or a band I saw at SXSW this year, Elephant Stone. Guitarist Diara was a founding member of Tinariwen, a band that has successfully rocked thousands of people in America, at festivals like Bonnaroo and the venues like D.C.’s 9:30 Club. The formula here is the same: powerfully lyrical, modal guitars and a well honed sound. Though it’s a sound familiar to me, I’d venture to say that few of those attending Austin Psych Fest, a dayparty/festival within a festival, had ever heard this music before, but all were pretty well tranced out by the end.”
“…In the vanguard of this “desert blues” brigade is the band Terakaft, which will appear Monday at the Cedar Cultural Center. A core trio composed of friends and a former member of the better-known group Tinariwen, Terakaft — which means “caravan” is the Tamasheq language — deploys driving blues-rock riffs that fans of John Lee Hooker and Ali Farka Touré will recognize. But these phrases coalesce into ululating and circular rhythms that swirl into gusting, hypnotic patterns.
Terakaft, like Tinariwen, are nomadic Tuareg people from the region around northern Mali in the Sahara, so it is hard not to liken this evocative music to the ever-shifting sands and landscape of the desert…
The title track to the group’s fourth and latest album, “Kel Tamasheq” (which translates as “people who speak Tamasheq”), opens with a call for their people to stand up and not be invisible to the world. The lyrics over the braided guitars in “Imad Halan” (“The Volunteers”) seem to caution against involvement in the turmoil in Mali, while the closing acoustic blues tune “Bas Tela Takaraket” (“There Are No More Morals”) proclaims, according to one translation, “We will not submit / Nor will we make alliance with the enemy.”
As with all great blues-oriented music, you don’t have to know the language to feel the passion. On the opening track, “Tirera,” a halting guitar line quickly gathers steam and settles into an intoxicating canter, goaded by hand claps and vocal whoops. It’s a classic desert blues tune, reveling in the unbridled joy of the expanse, satisfying a yearning for freedom and independence that is as old as the hills.”
Terakaft’s debut U.S. tour starts on Saturday: Catch them at The Cedar in Minneapolis on March 11:
Monday, March 11, 2013 - 7:30pm
Doors Open: 7:00pm
An evening of searing desert blues with Tuareg/Tamasheq band Terakaft (meaning “caravan” in Tamasheq). The stark, harsh conditions of the Sahara permeates their riffs, and the group embodies all that is wild and free in desert blues today. After forming as an offshot of TInariwen, Terakaft have taken the electric guitar and put their own mark on the music, music that serves as a rallying call for the youth of a country torn asunder by conflict. Ther new album Kel Tamasheq, produced by Tinariwen producer Justin Adams, showcases their continuing development as a vital force in global guitar-driven rock.
“Where so much in this style gets by on groove and attitude, Terakaft have variety, musicianship and well-crafted melodies on their side.” (fRoots)
Popular, mystically psychedelic, politically-fueled Malian desert blues legends Terakaft make history with their US debut this coming Saturday night, March 9, an intimate show at Drom at 85 Ave. A in the East Village. They hit the stage a little after eight…and there’s still time to win free admission to see the concert, no purchase necssary, just hit the “reply” button at the bottom of this page with your name and email address, first come first served, we’re giving away five pairs of tix.
With their signature mix of thougthful insight and sheer inscrutability, the band graciously took some time out of their worldwide tour to chat a little:
New York Music Daily: The first question anybody asks if they know somebody in Mali is, “Are you ok?” As all of us know there has been a terrible conflict going on in Mali – have you found yourselves in danger?
Diara (founding member and guitarist) : I am ok because I live in a safe place. I am not in danger, but our families from northern Mali had to fly out because of the danger there…
NYMD: Lyrics are very important in your music. How do you feel about playing for an audience that doesn’t understand them? To what degree if at all can you communicate your message to them?
Pino (percussion): We’re starting to think about that. At the beginning, during our first western tours, we didn’t really consider, do people understand our words ? Now we meet more and more people. We try to help them sometimes, giving them some keys to understanding what the next song is about…
NYMD: Your music is sometimes categorized here in the west as “desert blues.” How do you feel about that?
Sanou: We call it “assouf”. But desert blues or desert rock sounds good…
“Mesmerizing north African guitar band Terakaft named their fourth and best record, Kel Tamasheq [on iTunes]…Adams has brought a new clarity to the cycling guitar licks and stabs, clopping percussion, and syncopated hand claps, and he joins some folks from Maghreb-influenced French band Lo’Jo to contribute extra guitar and background vocals. But that’s not to say the four members of Terakaft need help—they’re a seasoned unit, driving their arid grooves and nasal incantations with an implacable sense of purpose.”
World Village has forged itself a reputation for excellence on the international musical scene in just a few short years. Seeking out talents from all around the world, carefully designed covers and booklets: these are the key values of the label, which is run by four producers working between France, the USA, Spain and the UK, who pursue an ambitious signing policy.
Jazz Village, the newest label in the Harmonia Mundi family, allows audiences to experience the best of current jazz music, from Europe to the Americas, from traditional to modern, through urban soul and new sound crossbreeds. On the menu: a dozen yearly releases featuring musical veterans, young idols and bright emerging talents.