Ishumar

Toumast

Released 05 March 2007

  1. Ikalane Walegh
  2. Tallyatidagh
  3. Innulamane
  4. Ammilana
  5. Ezeref
  6. Dounia
  7. Maraou Otan
  8. Kik Ayittma
  9. Amiddinine

Liner notes

The Touaregs occupy a huge territory that stretches from central Sahara —southern Libya to southern Algeria— to the North of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. During the past decades, their society underwent transformations that deeply modified their pastoral and trading economy as well as their political life.

At the beginning of the 1960’s, while the Touregs expressed in vain their refusal to be attached to the states of Niger or Mali, the decolonization deprived them of true independence and their territory was parted between different states. The authoritative and repressive policy of the governments of Niger and Mali further radicalized their position.

In the 1970’s and 80’s the region was struck by several periods of drought, forcing the Touareg population to exile to southern Algeria and southern Libya.

It then became customary to call the young Touaregs looking for work, ishumar, a term borrowed from the French “chômeur”, meaning unemployed.

Going from city to city the ishumar lived an itinerant life alongside the tormented story of the Touareg Liberation Front that was growing clandestinely. Their particular culture is forged outside of the camps and the cities, far from their families. The Touareg Liberation Front launched an offensive in 1990 against the northern regions of Mali and Niger. The conflict officially ended in 1992 in Mali and 1995 in Niger when the regimes became more democratic.

The ishumar-formed bands draw their inspiration from traditional melody lines and the militant lyrics describe their adventurous way of living, formulating vibrant calls to mobilize the younger generation that remains in the country. These itinerant musicians perform during night festivities in shantytowns. Their songs are then recorded on tapes, duplicated, exchanged or offered, spreading the word of the ishumar in all of the touareg region, in camps as in cities.

Toumast was founded in the 90’s by Moussa Ag Keyna. In 1993, after years of combat and resistance, Moussa was severely wounded and evacuated to France, later joined by Aminatou Goumar. His encounter with composer, arranger and producer Dan Levy in Paris was the starting point to the recording of this album. It testimony to the years of combat and disillusion experienced by the Touaregs. The songs contain topics precious to the ishumar: the nostalgia of the nomadic life, love, the bitter taste of exile and the criticism of politics.

Nadia Belalimat, Translated by Carin Möckli

Listen

Reviews

  • …Looping camel-gait rhythms, electric guitars that sting like a spider ad bite like a snake and guttural call-and-response vocals, with lyrics about nomadic life, love, exile and the Touareg liberation struggle…Ishumar is a fine album. Songlines (UK)
  • While we wait for somebody to do something completely unexpected with the desert blues, this is a step in the right direction. The guitarist-vocalist Moussa Ag Keyna and Aminatou Goumar, who sings and plays percussion, are here supplemented by French and African musicians adding bass, drums, brass and strings. ..the use of sax on Tallyatidagh and violin and cello on Ammilana that suggest there is much more to come from this exciting duo. The Times (UK)
  • Poetic, propulsive and life-affirming The Independent (UK)
  • Tinariwen may have brought the rhythmic, loping desert blues of northern Mali to an international audience, but they have competition.... The songs sound like a lighter, more western version of Tinariwen, with some fine bursts of blues guitar work and light, insistent percussion, matched by far more gloomy lyrics. The Guardian (UK)
  • The stinging electric Ishumar style is here, along with ululations, crystalline vocals and driving percussion from Aminatou Goumar and guttural call-and-responses from a self-restrained chorus. But here, too, are far sighted additions from French and African musicians on bass, drums and strings... songs of Toureg liberation have a bright, almost poppy urgency. Jazzwise

Further Listening

  • Tell No Lies

    Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara

    Released 11 May 2009

    Tell No Lies is the new sound of Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara. The sound of a nation with no borders, a place that needs no passport, no visa. This is where the deep roots of African music nourish the raw electric groove of rock and roll, where Gnawa spirit rhythms come up against Chicago distortion, where snaky N’awlins rhythm has a West London howl, and a Sahel Wail.
  • République Amazone

    Les Amazones d’Afrique

    Released 10 March 2017

    Les Amazones d'Afrique are an all-female collective of west African musicians campaigning for gender equality. They have been described as a supergroup, and the characterisation seems apt. Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo and Rokia Koné hold a strong pedigree.

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