Ama­nar - ‘Tu­mastin’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS -

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.

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