The band’s debut album is intent on dismantling the ideas western listeners have about popularized Tuareg music. This new wave of Tuareg musicians sound very different to the desert distortion that accompanies groups like Mdou Moctar or Group Inerane. Instead, it finds a calm and passionate soul, provides sumptuous slow burners, and a complexity of composition that hasn’t been demonstrated by previous music exported from the Saharan people’s musical repertoire.
Even if the band has a direct DNA link to trail blazers Tinariwen - (Eyadou Ag Leche of Tinariwen is a cousin of frontman Sadam, and guided their evolution and produced and co-wrote several songs on this album), their poetry and flow has a more integrally urban base than the ancestral tamashek poetry and traditional rhythms of their elders, Tinariwen. Instead they offer something much more fresh and intricate; there is a lot of sensitivity and space in these jams, a lot of room for your mind to ponder and drift.
This intimacy of Imarhan’s sound is no coincidence. In the language of the Kel Tamashek people ‘Imarhan’ means ‘the ones I care about’ - Iyad Moussa Ben Abderahmane aka Sadam, Tahar Khaldi, Hicham Bouhasse, Haiballah Akhamouk and Abdelkader Ourzig all grew up near each other in Tamanrasset, Southern Algeria, in a Tuareg community of Northern Malian descent. The giant divide between their spiritual home and physical home is heard in their tracks: the funkier groove of Western Africa, the emptier, subtle tones of Saharan Traditional folk music and the fire and romance of Algerian Rai music. No other Tuareg release to date has had such a variance of rhythms, tempo and feeling.
Imarhan’s record is a heads-up to anyone who thought Tuareg music as just one thing: it’s an invitation to closer listening and also an album that will stay fresh for a long time and influence those from the Sahara and beyond.
Jimmy 'Trash' Alexander