Tamikrest – Chatma

Tamikrest - Chatma

Tamikrest – Chatma

The music of Tamikrest is so imbued with the upheaval, sadness and defiance of the Tuareg communities spread across the countries that span the Saharan desert, that applying Western rock critique mores to the band’s work feels somewhat trivial.  Yet to patronise the group’s wares with over-compensating for the fact that merely keeping its members together is a struggle against the background of political and social homeland trauma could also be wrong.  For Tamikrest’s collective muse has a life that can be judged on its own terms, on top of the contexts that bring it forth.

As another stepping-stone in Tamikrest’s ongoing journey, Chatma is both a refining and consolidating set of North and West African desert-rock; with a less substantial creative shift than the one which took place between the band’s debut Ardagh (2010) and its sequel Toumastin (2011).  Instead, with the focus targeted on providing an overarching theme that pays tribute to the women of the Tuareg world – with “chatma” translating as “sisters” in the Tamashek language – there is greater passion invested into the more rocking pieces and deeper pathos found in the quieter explorations.

Hence on the amped-up front the ensemble thickens the groove-led songs (with sped-up reggae guitar and bass licks on “Djanegh Etoumast”), fortifies the prowling march-friendly anthems (like the opening “Tisnant An Chatma”) and brings more self-confidence to the funk-infused call-and-response cuts (such “Imanin Bas Zihoun” and “Takma”).  Whilst such reinforcement of the Tamikrest’s more muscular side is certainly welcomed, it’s perhaps the more serene moments that give Chatma its heart.  Thus, “Achaka Achail Aynaian Daghchilan” brings murmured gravitas through its electro-acoustic framing, the all too brief “Adounia Tabarat” peels back things to campfire-centric hushed vocals, slide guitars and rudimentary percussion and the haunting “Timtar” closes the collecting with a mournful blissfulness.

Whilst overall Chatma may lack some of the rousing freshness that made its two predecessors such heartfelt pleasures, it still respectably sustains the Tamikrest soul in all its nomadic questing.  Album number four may require some broader artistic stretching but in the interim this stands as a testament to a youthful yet maturing band holding its own.