Artist Interviews

Q&A: Tamikrest

By | Published on Thursday 6 May 2010


Tamikrest are a group of young Touareg musicians from the far north of Mali, originally formed in the northern Malian city of Kidal when three of their members met at a guitar workshop.

They decided to form a band despite only having two old homemade guitars to play with. Eighteen months later they are an eight piece with 25 original compositions in their repertoire. Inspired by another Touareg group, the long established and increasingly well known Tinariwen, and often tackling the political issues facing the Touareg people in their lyrics, the group’s current album is called ‘Adagh’.

The band are touring with Dirtmusic and play The Borderline in London on 19 May. They have also just been confirmed for the Field Day Festival on 31 Jul. The band’s Ousmane Ag Mossa took some time out to answer the Same Six.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
I started listening to music at the age of six, and even then I had a strong ambition to become an artist. At the age of eleven, I happened to get a guitar. I listened to cassettes of the great band Tinariwen and learned their songs. They went straight into my brain. I had to start playing for friends. And then, near the end of my schooling, I started the band Tamikrest.

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
I wanted to translate the suffering and dreams of the Touareg people into song. There is a great ignorance amongst the Touaregs about our rights and how we should protect them. There is also great ignorance in the rest of the world about what we are fighting for. Songs can educate. Songs can get the word out to both my people and the world beyond the desert. As artists, it’s our duty to make our problems known to the world, to sing songs about the nomadic life, about our traditions and culture. But above all, revolutionary songs, about what we see, about what the government is doing to our people, things which make no sense to me.

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
I write my lyrics by choosing words that I respect and that make personal sense to me. Words that speak about the troubles that surround my people. I write my music alone in a calm corner where I can think very deep, and I can slowly melt my lyrical ideas with the sound of my guitar. It begins very intimately, but then when I bring it to the band it transforms completely. It becomes stronger. It speaks louder.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
The artists that had influenced my music are Tinariwen, Bob Marley, Mark Knopfler and Jimi Hendrix. Tinariwen, of course, has been very important to me. They created the path and now it’s up to the younger bands like us to walk down it and create the future

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
I would hope that they enjoy it and that they become fans. I would also hope that people will understand and react to the message we are sharing in our music. The Touaregs, as a people, do not have journalists, we do not have lawyers who represent us. Music is our voice.

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
My ambition is that ‘Adagh’ is an album heard all over the world and that it will be loved by fans everywhere. My intent is to have a career in this business and become one day an artist well known internationally. I know it will be hard. I feel like I have been preparing for this dream for a long time.