In America, Timbuktu is more fantasy than reality, as in when we say "from Tucson to Timbuktu", but the town actually exists in Mali, Africa, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, though, as we've seen in recent years as global capitalists incite revolt behind the scenes on that continent, pitting African against African, Mali has become a beleaguered locale, many of its natives fled to preserve limb and sanity. Thus it has been with band leader Mohammed Issa Ag Oumar El Ansair, otherwise known as 'Medissa', a guy who wields a highly attractive mid-Eastern/Tuareg inflected guitar. And not only he but also many fellow Tuaregs, reflected in the name of the band, Imarhan Timbuktu, which translates to 'Those Who Love Timbuktu' but are who are far from home and not in enviable positions.
The entire set of music is guitar-dominated with Medissa on lead vocals as well as the six-string instrument, abetted by group backing vox, percussion, and a fat expansive bass. Some songs, Ehela Dahomee one of them, are far more trance-hypnotic than others, sophisticated native drone music, but all cuts have that baseline as an elementary ingredient, whether the trait's immediately apparent or not. Medissa's philosophy is interesting: he wishes to retain ancestral identity while accepting and integrating into the modern world. Compare that to the overriding sentiment of Christians, Jews, and Muslims, who mostly wish to subordinate the globe as an aryan religious or "racial" possession…though we now know, thanks to Project Genome, there's only one race. Too bad not everyone's up to speed on that yet; in fact, few are.
I have to confess I really like that zen sentiment in Medissa's thought. It says, "Hey, you do it your way, and I'll do it mine, but we're all one flesh regardless". With more individuals thinking that progressively, we'd have a damn sight fewer problems in the world. Minus such a mindset, think how homogenous everything would be—for one, we'd never have music like this. Intriguingly, the band is almost entirely an assemblage of brothers and sisters along with two more non-Ansari sister members, Fadimata Walet Oumar and Zeina Walet. They've toured Europe and North America as well as North and South of their homeland, to warm critical attentions. If you liked what Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno presented in their Womad and World Music endeavors, you're going to flip for Akal Warled because it provides an intriguing bridge between West and Near East.(NOTE: the song titles below are first in Tamashel, the Tuareg language, then in French and finally in English.)
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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