Midnight at the Oasis of Haphazardly Looped Hallucinations


Scholars believe Herodotus, back in the fifth century B.C., was the first to document the mysterious North African desert nomads now known as the Tuareg. And though Herodotus had a thing for embellishing the truth, the Sublime Frequencies DVD Folk Music of the Sahara: Among the Tuareg of Libya is such a haphazard sequence of dreamlike imagery that factual precision seems beside the point.

Filmed with a shaky, handheld camera, Among the Tuareg of Libya portrays various ceremonies so intimately that you almost feel you’re eavesdropping on someone’s fevered hallucination. Stunning women in glittering garb wander through dunes, wailing in haunting call-and-response patterns while pounding simple drums. Little kids draped in kaleidoscopic robes and gold jewelry chirpily chant while clapping. The men sing more aggressively, while bouncing up and down to clacking cymbals and thumping rhythms. But in this culture, males cover their faces; females command rituals and folklore, and with it, most of the music making. Along with voices, shrill reed instruments carry melodies, and sometimes a plaintively strummed guitar enters the swirl. But the most gripping aspects of the music are the most minimal—bare drumbeats, hypnotic and circular, looping endlessly into the dust.

See also: East Via Shortwave by Richard Gehr

Sidestage by Douglas Wolk

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