Traditional meets modern on this white-hot full-length.
At the dusty intersection of blazing desert blues, Algerian Raï romanticism, West African polyrhythms and urban city swagger stand Tuareg five-piece Imarhan.
Sung in the band’s native Tamashek language, Imarhan’s self-titled debut album pays heed to Tuareg – or the Kel Tamashek people, as they are also known – traditions and unpacks the sounds, culture and lifeblood of their south Algerian home, the desert city of Tamanrasset, Hoggar.
“It is important for us also to present our music to the people the same way we live it everyday in Tamanrasset,” they say.
However, the LP is also intent on “dismantling the ideas western listeners have about popularized Tuareg music.” Theirs is a new wave of Tuareg where lyrics and song dynamics lend themselves to an “integrally urban base”, making for a more slow-burning, less distorted, result than the ancestral Tamashek poetry of their elders.
“Imarhan or ‘those who wish you well’, is all about that universal celebration and spirit: the joy of being together, trusting each other and caring about others. Imarhan is about solidarity, friendship, goodwill, and the joy you get from it,” explains their label City Slang.
Read our Q&A below and stream Imarham’s eponymous debut album ahead of its release next Friday (April 29). Having recently toured with Tinariwen and Kurt Vile, there’s also a long list of dates to check out.
The band’s first single comes with a video filmed by Dalel Ziour in their hometown.
In what ways does the traditional play out on the album?
Firstly, with our Tamashek language. Some of our lyrics are about the Tuareg life, the desert and the suffering of the desert. The style Assuf, which is the blues of the desert, is our basis. And the tempo of most of our songs is part of the traditional Tuareg music.
How do you plan to dispel western preconceptions of Tuareg music?
We are Tuaregs but we live in a city, a city in the middle of the desert, but still a city. We grew up with internet and we feel connected to the rest of the world, listening to many different styles of music. But it is important for us also to present our music to the people the same way we live it everyday in Tamanrasset, which means wearing our everyday clothes on stage, like any other day in our city.
How has Tamanrasset inspired and influenced the album?
Tamanrasset is for us and for people in Algeria a place where you can breathe. It’s a city, but as soon as you leave it you’re in the middle of the bush, and there are wonderful places around where we love to go, for hanging out with friends, for jamming. Tamanrasset is our origin and we are proud of it and very proud people might discover it through our music.
How is the local music community organised?
In Tamanrasset there are lots of young people playing music and starting their own bands. It’s great to see and we are happy to share and jam with them. They come to our ‘boogie’ which is the rehearsal space we built for Imarhan. The lack of gear and means makes it difficult so there is the need of solidarity between musicians.
What’s the hardest thing about being a musician in Algeria?
In Algeria it is very difficult to earn your life as a musician, it is impossible to be only a musician, you need to do other jobs. The biggest challenges we are facing are the administrative ones while going outside from Algeria, the struggles with visas that take a long time! It is frustrating because sometimes we can not do exactly what we want to do, for instance we would have loved coming to UK on our spring tour but the timing for the visas was not good enough! We can’t wait being back in the summer!
22.04 Claremont, CA – Pomona College
23.04 Venice, CA – Del Monte Speakeasy presented by Radio Afrique
24.04 Los Angeles, CA – Echoplex
28.04 San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger
29.04 Austin, TX – Levitation Festival
02.05 Louisville, KY – Zanzabar
03.05 Chicago, IL – Schubas
04.05 Madison, WI – Frequency
05.05 Cincinnati, OH – MOTR Pub
06.05 Akron, OH – Musica
07.05 NYC, NY – Le Poisson Rouge
08.05 Brooklyn, NY – Baby’s Alright
12.05 Caen FR – Le Cargo
13.05 Clermont Ferrand FR – La Coopérative de Mai
14.05 Lille FR – L’Aeronef
15.05 St. Brieux FR – Art Rock Festival
17.05 Angers FR – Le Heron Carré
18.05 Paris, FR – Point FMR
19.05 Brussels BE – Les Nuits Botanique
20.05 Amsterdam NL – Paradiso Noord
21.05 Groningen NL – Vera
23.05 Copenhagen DK – Vera
24.05 Hamburg DE – Turnzimmer
25.05 Potsdam DE – Fabrik
26.05 Jena DE – Glashaus im Paradies
27.05 St. Gallen CH – Palace
28.05 Munich DE – Modular Festival
29.05 Dresden DE – Groove Station
30.05 Düsseldorf DE – Zakk
31.05 Antwerp BE – Het Bos
01.06 Luxemburg – De Gudde Wellen
02.06 Metz FR – Chapelle des Trinitaires
30.07 Saltash UK – Port Eliot Festival
06.08 London UK – Caught By The River Thames
04.09 Dorset UK – End Of The Road Festival