Mali’s one of those places that has left an imprint on world culture far greater than its small population or distance from anywhere else would ever suggest. Think Salif Keita, Toumani Diabate, Ali Farka Touré, Amadou et Mariam and the great Tuareg Saharan band Tinariwen, or the seminal crossover albums that such global stars have done with Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Robert Plant and Peter Gabriel. The rhythms are complex yet driving, the musicianship astounding and the new uses for electric guitars intoxicating.
Now, fresh from a performance at the South by Southwest festival in Austin on Friday, March 14, and a tour taking them to hotspots from Paris to Asheville, DC and New York, northern Mali’s Imarhan Timbuktu comes to Kingston’s BSP on Wall Street this Friday via their record company, locally based Clermont Music. The tour celebrates the release of the group’s debut album, Akal Warled.
Imarhan Timbuktu, which translates as “those who love Timbuktu,” was born out of its home area’s civil strife of recent years. The group’s leader, Mohamed Issa Ag Oumar, is a guitarist and vocalist of hypnotic power, backed up in concert by brother Ousmane Ag Oumar, hand-drumming sister Fadimata Walet Oumar and Zeinabou Walet and a bass-and-drums component offered up by the Navajo band Sihasin. This is infectious, one-of-a-kind dance music whose roots in politics give it the same innate power that early Wailers music had. It’s not to be missed.