Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Terakaft: Aratan N Azawad [World Village, 2011]
Of all the Saharan musicians to surface in the past decade--more than any American could have figured, and more than any non-Saharan has much practical use for--this three-man Tinariwen spinoff are the catchiest and most hypnotic. Stay with them a few hours and their every tune will stake a claim as both your trusted companion and the music's reason for being. Stated solo and then reprised in chorus, each is repeated by Diara or Sanou's no-nonsense guitar, supported by Abdallah's trickier bass, and nicely embellished by fourth-wheel French percussionist Matthias Vaguenez. Sanou sings roughly, Diara sweetly, but ample translations revisit the familiar concerns of the once-nomadic Tuaregs: "freedom" and cultural unity to counteract the displacements of African nationalism. It's the music of wise elders, and of restless men economically dependent on a skill that would have meant less to them in better times they still yearn for. A-