Deep in the dusty desert heat of the Sahara and laying in the shadow of Mt Tahat, is the district of Tamanrasset, Algeria- home to the traditional Tuareg style of music. A style of music that is being brought into our collective conciousness by one band in particular- Imarhan. The next generation of Tuareg musicians and a band who are commanding our attention and want the world to sit up and listen.
Traditional Tuerag music leans heavily on percussive instruments with rhythmic hand clapping, melodic water drums and traditional instruments such as the djembe, another type of drum, and the calabash- an instrument formed from the outer part of the fruit that bears the same name. Imarhan infuse these traditional sounds with sweeping electronic guitars and forlon, folk-style lyrics.
The band is formed of Iyad Moussa Ben Abderahmane (aka Sadam), Tahar Khaldi, Hicham Bouhasse, Haiballah Akhamouk and Abdelkader Ourzig, who formed a friendship and bond after going to school together in their hometown. The name 'Imharan' translates to the meaning 'the ones I care about', something that rings true of the band. Growing up in the same neighbourhood and forming a bond over music, something that has long been the basis of many long-lasting friendships, they decided to start a band over a decade ago. Frontman Sadam tells us that ever since they met they've been doing everything together. "We're even closer than brothers," he says.
Growing up in a small Algerian province, places to record and perform live music were limited, with most opportunities to perform being at family weddings and birthdays. "There is no recording studio in Tamanrasset....[and] we don't have live music venues such as you have here in Europe," Sadam informs us. They've recently travelled to Paris to record their second album, although they prepared most of the work was back home in Tamanrasset, then used the studio in Paris to lay it down. Sadam tells us that "the technical conditions are not good enough to record at home". Paris is a city they love performing in inspite of recent troubling events, and find joy in "mix of people" who make up the crowd.
The band have been lucky enough to tour their traditional Tuareg sounds all across the globe: from various parts of the UK, to Germany and the US. They've particulalry enjoyed the US leg of touring and find the crowd there to be the most receptive.
"The people react naturally to our music and don't hesitate to dance to it."
How do people from their hometown feel about the traditional music of their land being given a western twist? Sadam discloses that they "have great support from our community. They feel it's a way for the Tuareg traditional music to be heard all over the world".
Imarhan weave poetic lyrics throughout their music- "this world of yours is fast and competitive, beware of chasing it it'll make you anxious" and "in this world from time to time I experience moments of happiness. Days, nights I'm confused. My soul burns, I have no joy. Night comes in I lose myself in my thoughts. Deep inside my spirit is troubled" are just a couple of examples. Are these lyrics, that are filled with poetic poignancy, a reflection of their state of mind? Sadam explains:
"It’s a reflection of life that everyone is experiencing today, maybe harder in bigger cities, but it’s something that is happening everywhere. We feel lucky Tamanrasset is still preserved from the confusion so far, but we have to work on preserving our hometown…luckily we have the desert close-by, which is essential to us for putting things into perspective."
Next on the agenda for Imharan? Sadam tells us that the group had an unexpected invitation from Russia to play there, perhaps they'll except? Then there's the peformance at Field Day in Victoria Park where they "hope to not play too early", as well as the second album which they're excited to share. "We are looking forward playing new territories," the frontman continues "and playing more in Africa, and discovering South America and Asia."
Aside from taking their sounds to the globe, Sadam also reveals the bands ultimate dream- to build the first recording studio in Temanrasset. Sadam concludes "this is our dream. This is our goal".
To catch Imharan at Field Day, head HERE.
Main image credit- Ben Pi.