Imarhan are: Iyad Moussa Ben Abderahmane (aka Sadam), Tahar Ag Kaddor, Hicham Ag Boubas, Habibalah Ag Azouz, Hachim Ag Abdelkader, Kada Ag Chanani
Imarhan’s debut album is intent on dismantling the ideas western listeners have about popularized Tuareg music. This new wave of Tuareg musicians sound very different to the desert distortion that accompanies groups like Mdou Moctar or Group Inerane. Instead, it finds a calm and passionate soul, with sumptuous slow burners and a complexity of composition rarely displayed in previous musical exports from the Sahara.
Even if the band has a direct DNA link to trailblazers Tinariwen – Eyadou Ag Leche of Tinawiren is a cousin of frontman Sadam, and produced and co-wrote several songs on this album – their poetry and flow has a more integrally urban base than the ancestral Tamashek poetry and traditional rhythms of their elders. Instead, they offer something much more fresh and intricate; there is a lot of sensitivity and space in these jams, and a tension from lives spent between the immensity of the desert and a new way of life in urban Tamanrasset — the southern Algerian city where the Kel Tamashek people (the Tamashek-speaking Tuareg community of northern Mali) ended their exile in the early 1990s.
This intimacy of Imarhan’s sound is no coincidence. In the language of the Kel Tamashek people ‘Imarhan’ means ‘the ones I care about,’ and the band members are longtime friends. The sound they created is a genuine alchemy of their history and present, deeply rooted in traditional Tuareg music and assouf (a kind of blues stemming from melancholy, homesickness, and separation from family) but incorporating the funky groove of Western Africa, the fire and romance of Algerian Rai music, as well as the mainstream pop and rock that the members heard growing up. No other Tuareg release to date has had such a variance of rhythms, tempo and feeling.
Imarhan’s record is a heads-up to anyone who thought Tuareg music as just one thing; it’s an invitation to closer listening and an album that will influence those from the Sahara and beyond.
Having previously played European shows with Tinariwen & Songhoy Blues and most recently with Mdou Moctar in London just before Christmas, Imarhan return to Europe in the spring of 2016 to support Kurt Vile, and will be touring the US in April and May.For tour dates and more visit: www.imarhan.com/