Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Tinariwen: Aman Iman [World Village, 2007]
Most Saharan music--by the women of Tartit, the phantoms who groan and ululate in and out of the Rough Guide and Festival in the Desert collections--slips as easily into the background as any other modern African subgenre. These militants are less ingratiating. The spiritual gravity of their melodies and grooves demands your attention without offering to reward it--what's sought isn't your affection but your respect. But give them time and eventually affection and even awe will follow--for the guitar line that opens the record, the call-and-response that follows the guttural intro to Track 4, the chorus that rises up out of Track 7. Study the booklet and discover that the subject of all three songs is the privations of exile. Perhaps you'd prefer something a little more upful--"Tamatant Tilay," say? Translation on that one: "We kill the enemies and become like eagles/We'll liberate all those who live in the plains." And it's not a metaphor. A-