Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Terakaft's "Aratan N Azawad": Electric Music from the Sahara

This group is something. Electric guitars and bass combine with traditional North African drumming, clapping, and vocal lines that have a Touareg tradition-meets-today sound, which is to say that they sound bluesy--in part because they always have been bluesy. The vocal parts are memorable; the guitars translate desert playing on nonelectric string instruments into a contemporary interwoven tapestry of desert blues. They remind a little of the sort of one-chord Delta-to-Chicago things that John Lee Hooker did so well. Yet they are unmistakably North African. You hear this brilliantly on Terakaft's third, Aratan N Azawad (World Village WVF 014).

Now does that mean that we have discovered the missing link from Africa to US blues? In general, sure, this is the African background to the blues, transposed to reflect blues-rock that has been in the air and has filtered its way back to the continent. I would not want to say, though, that Terakaft stems from a direct lineage of those specific Africans that ended up in the US. Too many tribes had musics that have something to do with the blues scale and feel to pin it down to one group. Like Fela Kuti's music both reflects James Brown and shows how there are African roots in Brown's music that can in turn energize new African music, so with Terakaft and the bluesmen-rockmen of the States.

All that does not matter ultimately in terms of the music here. I mean, to the listening. It is very vital music. Excellent. And it should appeal to a wide range of listeners who might not otherwise be exposed to African music. Highly recommended.

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