Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Terakaft – Awa Adounia

Terakaft’s music, along with the music of Tinariwen and other music groups from the Malian desert region, is often described as ‘droning’. The architecture of their songs is frequently turned into a metaphor about the desert. Though a romantic way of imaging the music and the way it was written, but it could also be interpreted as a way of a critic saying that it is monotonous, dry, repetitive and fairly featureless.  Admittedly, for an outsider this metaphor feels like a fantastic way of imaging the world that these musicians inhabit. The intrigue surrounding the great Sahara desert is certainly a good marketing tool, and the musicians seem to enjoy talking about their music in this way.

When the music is so enjoyable, and their world feels so exotic and far away, why not get caught up with it all and imagine the desert scene in your mind, the caravan winding away through the dunes? There is a fear however that constant references to the geography and the nomadic lifestyle many of their people still lead simplifies the music under review – does this imagery cause us to forget the sophistication present throughout Terakaft’s music? When reading a review about the British rock band Muse do we endlessly read about how their music mirrors the rolling hills of Dartmoor, or how the tone of the vocals recalls images of the English Channel?

Perhaps that goes a little too far, but its a point worth considering. Anyway, let’s set that record straight. This week’s song of the week is a fantastic song, with the guitar work proving especially excellent. Look out for the mid-section, where the music imitates the sound of a lap steel guitar made famous in American blues, with the slide deployed to warp the rhythm slightly – in addition to the atmospheric production – to keep you on your toes. This theme is extended and is captured brilliantly in the sudden change of rhythm to accentuate the guitar solo. The beat is simplified and increased in tempo, to round off the song in crescendo.

Terakaft – Awa Adounia

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