Timbuktu Tarab by Khaira Arby. CD Review

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I would rejoice the day when reviewers stop using such inane similes in their ignorant writings. White supremacy is a powerful opiate though. And as I have said before, if a Martian comes to earth and plays his music, ignorant reviewers will write about it as if they are experts. By the way, does “desert blues” mean the art form that African-American invented, as played in the Gobi, the Kalahari & the Mojave? Just asking.

And when will Putumayo come out with their highly anticipated “Music from the Desert Lands’ compilation? But I digress.

Anyway, the first thing one notices on “Timbuktu Tarab” is that the energy level of her live show can not be totally replicated on a studio album. That’s to be expected. Some day, she will record a great live album. “Timbuktu Tarab” dovetails very seamlessly from where “Ya Rassoul”, her previous album, ended.

The mix of traditional African [n'goni, sokou, calabash] and American [batterie, electric guitars] musical instruments are still her standard. The addition of electric guitars [three of them] seem to be a calculated move to appeal to white rock fans. No shame in aiming to get a share of the Tinariwen audience.

And, while Vieux Farka Toure’s band is replete with testosterone and, he has a weak voice, Kaira and her backing vocalist [Inna Diarra] add feminine allure to the presentation, and of course, Kaira possesses a powerful, keening, soprano. She can huff and puff and blow your lobes out. But she doesn’t always belt. She can finesse too. Just listen to how she caresses and massages the words at the end of the eponymous track “Khaira”.

One noticeable characteristic of the song architecture is double movement. Check out “Goumou” and “Delya”. Very attractive. After one listen, the novice will be anticipating the excitement of the faster, irresistibly danceable second movement. The reggae lilt on the last minute or so on “Tijani Ascofare” is a nice touch that lifts the melody out of the doldrums.

By and large, the music on “Timbuktu Tarab” is straightforward in that there are no interesting compositional sonic surprises. In the hands of Cheikh Tidiane Seck, the introductions would have been more developed, more stylised.

The rock guitars do overshadow the spine-tingling n’goni of Elbellaou Yattara and I would be happier had the compositions included more sokou sawing by Zoumana Téréta [known all his life by that name but re-baptised on the credits as Zoumane Tereketa]. But don’t let these minor distractions prevent you from buying this ceedee NOW and supporting this great artist.

I would rejoice the day when reviewers stop using such inane similes in their ignorant writings. White supremacy is a powerful opiate though. And as I have said before, if a Martian comes to earth and plays his music, ignorant reviewers will write about it as if they are experts. By the way, does “desert blues” mean the art form that African-American invented, as played in the Gobi, the Kalahari & the Mojave? Just asking.

And when will Putumayo come out with their highly anticipated “Music from the Desert Lands’ compilation? But I digress.

Anyway, the first thing one notices on “Timbuktu Tarab” is that the energy level of her live show can not be totally replicated on a studio album. That’s to be expected. Some day, she will record a great live album. “Timbuktu Tarab” dovetails very seamlessly from where “Ya Rassoul”, her previous album, ended.

The mix of traditional African [n'goni, sokou, calabash] and American [batterie, electric guitars] musical instruments are still her standard. The addition of electric guitars [three of them] seem to be a calculated move to appeal to white rock fans. No shame in aiming to get a share of the Tinariwen audience.

And, while Vieux Farka Toure’s band is replete with testosterone and, he has a weak voice, Kaira and her backing vocalist [Inna Diarra] add feminine allure to the presentation, and of course, Kaira possesses a powerful, keening, soprano. She can huff and puff and blow your lobes out. But she doesn’t always belt. She can finesse too. Just listen to how she caresses and massages the words at the end of the eponymous track “Khaira”.

One noticeable characteristic of the song architecture is double movement. Check out “Goumou” and “Delya”. Very attractive. After one listen, the novice will be anticipating the excitement of the faster, irresistibly danceable second movement. The reggae lilt on the last minute or so on “Tijani Ascofare” is a nice touch that lifts the melody out of the doldrums.

By and large, the music on “Timbuktu Tarab” is straightforward in that there are no interesting compositional sonic surprises. In the hands of Cheikh Tidiane Seck, the introductions would have been more developed, more stylized.

The rock guitars do overshadow the spine-tingling n’goni of Elbellaou Yattara and I would be happier had the compositions included more sokou sawing by Zoumana Téréta [known all his life by that name but re-baptised on the credits as Zoumane Tereketa]. But don’t let these minor distractions prevent you from buying this ceedee NOW and supporting this great artist.

Akenaata Hammagaadji is an African music expert and cultural critic. He is the radio host of First World Music, an African music programme broadcast from WVKR.