Comprised of founding members Ousmane Ag Mossa and Cheick Ag Biglia along with Aghaly Ag Mohamedine, Ibrahim Ag Ahmed Salam, Mahmoud Ag Ahmouden, Mossa Ag Borreiba, Fatma Wallet Cheick, Bassa Wallet Abdamou and Wannou Wallet Sidaty, the members of Tamikrest hail from the region around the city of Kidal in Northeastern Mali; in fact, all of the members of band attended the Les enfants de l’aurar school in Tinzawaren where they met and received basic music training. And with the members of the band being in their late 20s and early-to-mid 30s, their youths were shaped by the Tuareg Rebellion of 1990-1995 as each of the bandmembers had family, friends and others fought and died in their people’s fight for autonomy. Much like the members of the internationally acclaimed Tuareg collective Tinariwen, the members of Tamikrest began playing their people’s traditional music, as well as the music of Tinariwen — and thanks in part to the intent, the members of the band got a chance to listen to and be influenced but he work of Western artists like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd and Mark Knopfler.
When another series of riots exploded across Kidal and elsewhere in 2006, the band’s founding members decided the it would be best for them to fight with their instruments and songs — with songs that called attention to their people’s cause. Interestingly, a chance meeting with American-Australian band Dirtmusic at 2008 Festival Au Desert led to both friendship and to a lengthy collaboration in which the members of Tamikrest were invited to play on Dirtmusic’s 2010 sophomore effort BKO, which was recorded in Bamako, Mali. Chris Eckman, a member of Dirtmusic and The Walkabouts produced Tamikrest’s 2010 full-length debut Adagh and the band’s 2011 sophomore effort Toumastin
Kidal, the band’s fourth, full-length effort pays homage to the town in which the band was formed, as well as the town that’s one of their people’s main cultural centers. Historically, Kidal has been fought over, conquered and re-conquered many times over — and as a result, the town is a long-held symbol of the Taureg people’s defiance, resistance and hope. As the band’s co-founder explains of the album, “Kidal talks about dignity. We consider the desert as an area of freedom to live in. But many people consider it as just a market to sell to multinational companies, and for me, that is a major threat to the survival of our nomadic people.”
And although the Tuareg have traditionally been a nomadic people, there was a brief moment in which they actually had a homeland when the Tuaregs collectively rose up in 2017 and declared the Azawad region of Mali, an independent state. Sadly, it lasted less than a year as Al-Qaeda militants came in from the north and imposed strict Islamist rule and was followed by the French military, who arrived to liberate the area. And as a result, the Tuareg people were left with little or no chance for immediate self-determination; however, the dream remains for the Tuareg people, even if it seems trapped between several different governments, religious terrorists groups, and greedy, global corporations. As the band’s associate Rhissa Ag Mohamed mentions in press notes, “Kidal, the cradle of all of these uprisings, continues to resist the many acts perpetrated by obscure hands against our people. The album evokes all the suffering and manipulations of our populations caught in pincers on all sides.” And much like the aforementioned the members of Tamikrest feel an obligation to preserve and protect their people’s culture, while informing the world of their people’s plight — and unsurprisingly, Kidal‘s first single “Wainan Adobat” possesses a forceful urgency that belies its gorgeous yet cool self-assuredness. Interestingly, while the track nods at Tinariwen, the track also is reminiscent of Brothers in Arms-era Dire Straights. But perhaps most important, this song should be a reminder that in the difficult times that seem to be coming up ahead, that music and art should be used both as spiritual sustenance and as one of the most powerful political weapons known to man.