What has gone before under-pins what comes next. It shapes what is acceptable and what is beyond us. The Acceptable New, if our search is for something different, generally contains some aspect of what has gone before. It has some relativity. Somewhere in the overlap of this Venn diagram of searching for new music, is that area of western experience and new cultural expression. It is the area of acceptability – of contact. The meeting of taste and instinct.
Perhaps this is the reason we find African blues an easy crossing point. There is a connection when African musicians wield electric guitars that would be harder to make if our only exposure was to kora or ngoni players, for instance.(Which is not to denigrate either of these fine instruments in any way.) Add into the mix that technology can create stars of these people in no short time and we have ready access to opportunities for musical enlightenment and the musicians themselves can quickly become “names” on the World stage.
But if they started covering “Johnny B. Goode” that wouldn’t work, would it? That’s not what we’re looking for.
I had discounted Tamikrest’s early work. For me they were stepping too close to the “Johnny B. Goode” line. The temptation is understandable; but what we want to hear is how we can meld our musical cultures. Right?
“Chatma” , Tamikrest’s third album, is an outstanding example. When much of western pop is increasingly becoming insipid here we have a collection of songs driven by protest and outrage. There is edginess and defiance in the music.
The band devote their new album to the women of their Tamasheq culture in recognition of the unique burden they bear and the role they play in the daily struggle for freedom. One feels that without them some fabric of society would unravel. (You have kept up with the insurgency in Mali, haven’t you ? )
The licks are fresh. The jangly electric rhythms that have almost become a Malian blues trademark power the message. There is anger too.
Tamikrest’s work is maturing, firstly through “Toumastin” , their second album and now “Chatma” .
This is no cosy-up to the “Johnny B. Goode” line. This stands toe-to-toe and dares you to pay attention – and you should.
In Mali today, consider this. Singing in itself is defiant. Recording it and then selling it to spread the message, downright revolutionary.