Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

143

Various Artists: Festival in the Desert

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
The Sahara is not generally known as much more than a massive stretch of hot, dry sand where camels are a primary form of transportation and water is your best friend. However, this year's Festival in the Desert brought a fertile collection of musicians to Essakane, an oasis 65 kilometers northwest of Timbuktu in Mali.

The remoteness of the location was just as much a test as the technical conditions, but more than a handful of artists made it all the way: from veterans like Mali's ambassador of the blues, Ali Farka Touré, to younger players like Adama Yalomba. While most of the 36 musicians hailed from Mali, other segments of the international delegation found their home in Africa, Europe and the United States.

This collection serves as a sprightly document of the 2003 event: twenty short (mostly 3-4 minute) tracks culled from three days of performances. Like any compendium with this many different musicians (and styles), there are bound to be selections which work better than others, and certain songs that appeal more to some tastes than others. That's a good thing. Diversity is important.

Ali Farka Touré overcame a broken-down Land Cruiser to bring his particular brand of folk guitar blues to the proceedings. His protegé Afel Bocoum (also from Niafunké, just down the Niger River) takes a looser tack, combining an emphatic repetitive groove with vocals that sail on and off the beat and guitar lines that snake around through nooks and crannies.

No tune manifests deep trance stronger than the track by Tartit, a group of woman Kel Tamashek singers who ride atop minimalist drum accompaniment with non-stop cyclical chants and throaty counterpoint. It's an intense launch into outer spiritual space. Be prepared.

Other artists combine traditions: Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi joins forces with Malian kora player Ballaké Sissoko for a pared-down merging of folk with improvised pentatonic melodies, nibbling further into Western harmonies than anywhere else in this collection. Vincent "Kwal" Loiseau raps pointedly in French over guitar accompaniment, a surreal modern-meets-ancient combination that works. Young guitarist Baba Salah goes funky with a booty-shaking groove, but in this context his improvisation seems a bit cliché. Navajo alternative rockers Blackfire soil the affair a bit with derivative pop, and Malian singer Django takes it home with a torch ballad.

Of course nothing endeared this festival more to the press than the presence of superstar Robert Plant—and despite what you might suspect, he comes through in stellar style, combining a sensitive touch with Justin Adams' revelatory guitar accompaniment. If his star power brings this event to the world stage, it's just as well. This record is a stunning display of international culture that's all about shared ground, whether sand or soil.

Visit World Village on the web.


Track Listing: Takamba Super Onze (Mali) - Super 11; Afel Bocoum (Mali) - Buri baalal; Tartit (Mali) - Tihar bayatin; Robert Plant & Justin Adams (UK) - Win my trainfare home; Sedoum Ehl Aida (Mauritania) - Ya moulana; Lo 'Jo + Django (France /Mali) - Jah kas cool boy; Oumou Sangar

Title: Festival in the Desert | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: World Village

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lux CD/LP/Track Review Lux
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Unleashed CD/LP/Track Review Unleashed
by John Sharpe
Published: January 20, 2018
Read I Think I'm Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I'm Going To Eat Dessert
by Jerome Wilson
Published: January 20, 2018
Read 20 CD/LP/Track Review 20
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 20, 2018
Read Roppongi CD/LP/Track Review Roppongi
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 19, 2018
Read Is Life Long? CD/LP/Track Review Is Life Long?
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 19, 2018
Read "Sedimental You" CD/LP/Track Review Sedimental You
by John Sharpe
Published: March 30, 2017
Read "This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People" CD/LP/Track Review This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: May 29, 2017
Read "Crack-Up" CD/LP/Track Review Crack-Up
by Doug Collette
Published: June 19, 2017
Read "Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues" CD/LP/Track Review Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play...
by Troy Dostert
Published: March 3, 2017
Read "Nature City" CD/LP/Track Review Nature City
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 23, 2017
Read "Cub(an)ism" CD/LP/Track Review Cub(an)ism
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 4, 2017