Toumast's Ishumar

African rebels fight intolerance with guitars

After a bullet nearly killed him while he served as a freedom fighter in the '90s, Toumast founder Moussag Ag Kenya came to the sensible realization that guitars speak louder than guns—or, at the very least, are safer. He relocated to France and began writing songs about the plight of the Touareg, the African desert dwellers displaced and separated by the borders imposed on them by different governments, who have since fought to regain the rights they had in the precolonial days. Ishumar is the result of those reflections. Though the music is clearly influenced by the fusion of rock and indigenous rhythm pioneered by Tinariwen (who Kenya discovered in his early teens), the guitarist and bandleader takes it a step further by drawing inspiration from African and American blues by guitar heroes like Jimi Hendrix, Ali Farka Touré, and Albert King. "Amidinine" is a percussion-rich tune enhanced by a well-placed string arrangement; "Kik Ayittma" is an upbeat, rock-inflected tune that climaxes with a technically complex guitar solo that was the centerpiece of the group's short set at Webster Hall's GlobalFest showcase in January. "Ammilana" features soulful vocals by Aminatour Gourmar (Kenya's younger cousin) lamenting the current situation of the Touareg, who feel that their dignity has been stripped by intolerance. More positively, "Dounia," a tight, high-octane rocker filled with smart guitar licks, intends to celebrate the magic of everyday life. Ishumar only adds to it.

 
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