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Saturday, 17 August 2013

Songs for Desert Refugees – A Compilation from Northern Mali

All proceeds from this album go to the refugees of the conflict in Northern Mali. The enclosed booklet tells the tale of this humanitarian tragedy in much more detail and with more passion than I can ever muster in the pages of an Obscure music blog, but needless to say the future of these people relies solely on the next aid handout, while the shadow of draught and famine looms ever larger in the Southern Sahara. The CD aims to support a couple of NGO’s to support the nomads of the area and continue education projects.

Being relatively familiar with the desert blues of Tinariwen, I was looking forward to hearing them but also listening to other styles of music from the region. Don’t get your hopes up – in the Southern Sahara there is only one style of music, and that is desert blues! All the bands on the compilation have somehow purchased electric guitars and amps and decided that rocking is the only way to live.

Tinariwen’s ‘Amous Idraout Assouf d’Alwa’ is the perfect kick off track with the trademark languid riffs and super cool desert chic vocals. The rest is surprisingly agreeable too and in no way a mere copy of Mali’s premium blues combo. Etran Finatawa’s ‘Gourma’, Terakaft’s ‘Nak Essanagh’ and Toumast’s ‘Aitma’ are all high quality examples. Best of all is Nabil Baly Othmani’s ‘Teswa Tenere’; a pumping clap-a-long of pure desert magic.

If you’re looking for an introduction to the desert blues genre, then look no further. This is a comprehensive, rich and enticing mix of bands and stylewhich hopefully will raise much needed funds for those living their lives in such peril.

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