Amanar - ‘Tumastin’
Due to difficulties with transportation and communication in the Sahara region, finding and gathering other people to play music with isn’t easy. And good studios are thin on the ground too. Tuareg contemporaries Tinariwen and Terakaft moved away once international recognition came but the situation in their homeland remains volatile. Political conflict in the region has affected the amount of music being played and recorded.
Amanar released their debut album in 2010. It stood out for many reasons, but the way they incorporated drums and electric piano into the mix made for a fresh and powerful effect. Having the appetite whetted so tantalisingly, the wait for more has been long.
Under the leadership of Ahmed Ag Kaedi, the follow-up was recorded in their hometown of Kidal in the heart of Azawad. In the interim, the region declared independence from Mali after a Tuareg rebellion drove the Malian army from the region. It rejoined Mali in February 2013, after less than a year of independence.
Judging by the range of new sounds and a palpable sense of adventure and exploration Amanar’s time in exile was not wasted. They return rejuvenated. All the turbulence and change appears to have informed their music. It feels not just recharged but brimming with purpose and intent. Soulful call and response routines set a tone of urgency. They are politically charged, calling out corruption among the elite and trouble and strife on the ground. This music has something to say.
Ag Kaedi’s mesmerising guitar-playing is what everything revolves around. His versatility means changes in tempo are frequent. The songs switch from rip-roaring desert blues to wistful melodies without breaking stride. All the while, a cacophony of sounds circle and swirl around his every word.
There is a giant leap forward in terms of the arrangement and orchestration of the sound too. The lush production makes room for all manner of embellishment with the flautist making many a star turn.
This is folk music but with a very modern twist. Amanar are heading for the higher ground.