In a night of illuminating music with a poignant message, Getintothis’ Chris Hughes takes in a real treat by the mysterious Tamikrest.
When news first reached us that Tamikrest were to play the Kazimier, we promised that it would be a night like no other. Despite earning plaudits all around Europe for their unique blend of traditional African beats and western prog-rock, a veil of mystery shrouded the Malian nine-piece.
Brought to Liverpool by the guys behind the endearingly successful Africa Oyé festival and Merseyside promo team Harvest Sun, there was genuine intrigue in a band who had been compared to titans of their genres, Pink Floyd and Can. Anticipation further intensified when the Songlines Music Awards named them ‘Best Group of the Year 2014’.
But still, all that fans knew to expect from their live show was the unexpected.
And so here we are sitting on the steps inside the Kazimier, the atmosphere filled with tense anticipation. The crowd is a very mixed bag – there are white-ponytail rockers from the seventies, hippy girls with tye-dye tank tops and dreadlocks glittering with jewellery, and middle-aged skin heads with Red Stripe in hand, all in a patchwork jumble that makes the Kazimier such a unique venue.
The hypnotic sounds of Mali fill the dark space as Josh Ray provides support through his mesmerising DJ set, featuring artists such as Bassekou Koyate and Terakaft. This gives the eager crowd some clue as to what to expect, and there are already a few tapping feet and swaying heads.
When the band finally take to the stage – most members donning traditionally elaborate West-African dress – there is a mix of awe and excitement. Smiling, they quietly take to their instruments as a midnight-blue light illuminates the stage. A single low keyboard note rises while Ousmane Ag Mossa plays slow slide-guitar.
With the dim light and a build-up that refuses to be rushed, it’s all very Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Vocalist Fatma Wallet Cheick, adorned by an impressive silken headscarf, leads the song into its main body with a steady clap that soon has much of the crowd joining in. The song is a perfect taste of desert-blues that Tamikrest have become known for, sweet guitar licks mixed with rich dub-bass and beats.
The second number is much livelier, and a group near the front erupt into dance as if possessed. Along with a full drumkit, the distinct dance of the djembe drum fills the room. Appropriately, given the all-round smiles and feel-good vibes, the word djembe derives from the saying ‘everyone gather together in peace’. Singing in Tamashek, the language of the Taureg people from which the the group originate, Tamikrest’s spell bewitches all who hear it.
But Tamikrest’s message is a poignant and important one.
As Ousmane Ag Mossa stops to explain in his native tongue, translated by their keyboardist, life is not easy for the children of Mali. The room falls silent in total respect as he explains that civil war ravaged his country in the nineties, and the band lost many family and friends as their people struggled for autonomy. When tensions flared again in 2006, they decided to spread word of the Taureg’s plight through music and not take up arms. He dedicates the next song to the fallen freedom-fighters of Mali. A quietly captivating acoustic number follows, the crowd reverently mute until the very last note, when the band are given a deserved ovation.
Tamikrest came to Liverpool as a group of mysterious musicians who had become almost the stuff of folklore in other parts of the world. Their rare combination of musical brilliance and philanthropic importance mean they embody much of what Liverpool is about, and they embark on the rest of their tour as local favourites whom we’re sure to see more of in the future.
Keep your fingers crossed for an appearance at Africa Oyé next year, but in the meantime make sure check out their hypnotic latest record, Chatma.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Tom Adam.