“I’ve been in Europe for 10 years but my soul will always be in the desert”, so says Anana Harouna, the singer and guitarist in Kel Assouf (and member of fellow Tuareg troubadours Tinariwen). His band’s new record Tikounen (which translates as “surprise”) brings to bear the charging anger and injustice felt by an exiled musician from the Sahara currently living in Brussels. Joining him with vocals and percussion is Toulou Kiki, the primary actress in the critically lauded, multiple award-winning film Timbuktu – a direct line to the pure devastation of Mali’s rich musical heritage that is currently being demolished by extremists in the region.
Tragically beautiful is the new album, bringing together African grooves with a western inflection of heavy blues-rock licks that is both forceful and hypnotising. The dusty guitar lines, free-spirited vocals and intoxicating rhythms churn and chug as themes of pain and contrast dominate lyrically.
Today we’re premiering ‘Lehiyet’, a global gem that is far reaching in its dexterity. Opening with a rich guitar twang, high pitched female tongue-trills and handclaps, the bedrock of the song is glazed with infectious Tuereg singing that rings out as a desert blues epic. The meeting of two worlds is the magic of Kel Assouf; rhythms remain archetypically African, speeding up and slowing down at will as subtle nods to doom-y stoner rock are lassoed around everything. The language spoken on the record may be the largely unfamiliar one of Tamasheq, but the sounds, energy and force of it are much more universally understood and relatable.