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Tamikrest - Kidal - 2017 - Mali

Around Kidal, the Mali desert stretches in all directions. Endless horizons of rock and sand, barren and parched. This is the southwestern tip of the Sahara, home to the Tuareg people, and the city of Kidal is one of its main cultural centers. He fought, conquered and reconquered, remains the symbol of the challenge and hope of the Tuareg, the spiritual home of a dispossessed people.

It is also the city where Tamikrest first joined as a group, and on Tamikrest's fourth studio album Kidal, the band pays tribute to this place that has nurtured them and their people.

It is a cry of suffering and the cry of rebellion. It is power and resistance. It is a pure rock'n'roll tuareg.

"Kidal talks about dignity," says Ag Mossa. "We consider the desert as a space of freedom to live. But many people consider it as a market to sell to multinational companies, and for me it is a great threat to the survival of our nomadic peoples."

The Tuareg have always been nomadic people, their lives moving through the desert, sometimes carrying only the essentials with them. But for a brief moment they had a home after the Tuaregs rose in 2012 and declared the independent state of Azawad in northeast Mali. It lasted less than a year, when al-Qaeda's first conduits swept in from the north, imposing the Islamic government, and then the French military arrived to liberate the area - once again leaving the Tuareg with little or no opportunity for self-determination. But the dream remains, still caught between governments and the greed of global corporations.

"Kidal, the cradle of all these revolts, continues to resist the many acts perpetrated by dark hands against our people," says gang associate Rhissa Ag Mohamed. "This album evokes all the suffering and manipulation of our pinched populations everywhere."

Kidal's songs evoke a long history. And for all electricity, as Ag Mossa observes, "It is very traditional if you go deeper into what I am playing."

Everything is in focus here. Everything burns. Ag Mossa punctuates his lyrics with inspired guitar bolts. Even an acoustic song like "Tanakra" maintains a luminous edge.

With Kidal, that glow is roaring. Recorded in Bamako, Mali in the summer of 2016, the album was produced by Mark Mulholland (Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra) and mixed by David Odlum, who received a Grammy for his work with Tinariwen. It is an album that takes two years to make, says Ag Mossa, "because we share the same difficulties as our people." And the songs here reflect their joys, their pain, and their unwillingness to accept things as they are.

There is a raw beauty to Tamikrest's rock'n'roll. It's there in the driving, the insistent groove that drives the songs, the bass lines and meandering bass and the guitars that intertwine and twist around the melodies, and the all-natural musical mix of the Sahel of Africa, Maghreb and the West . Influences as diverse as Pink Floyd, Rachid Taha, and flamenco. However, the Sahara, and the people who live there, are always firmly in their hearts.

"This music was founded on a very precise cause, the cause of the Tuareg," Ag Mossa told journalist Andy Morgan in 2013. They can be threatened from all sides, but they don't give up, and this album celebrates who the Tuareg are, El KelTamasheq. ("those who speak Tamasheq"), the guardians of an ancient and endangered cultural voice.

Tamikrest's new album is the music of challenge, of hope. It is the rock'n'roll of the Sahara, the sound of the Tuareg dream, a dream that will be renewed again, in its ancestral town: Kidal.

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