Following an impressive set at last weekend’s End of the Road festival, Tuareg band Imarhan return to London for an intimate headline show.
It’s been an incredible year for Imarhan. Fitting of their nomadic roots, the Tuareg group showcased their eponymous debut album with an extensive tour across Europe and the US, providing support along the way for the likes of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes and Kurt Vile. Back in the UK for a series of headline shows, the quintet bring their western-tinged desert rock to intimate North London venue The Lexington.
Frontman Iyad Moussa Ben Abderahmane (a.k.a Sadam) has a cousin in world-renowned Saharan group Tinariwen and inevitably, the two bands share more than just blood relations. The soulful assouf ambience, synonymous with Tinariwen, is present throughout the Imarhan LP – but the younger band, with rockier tendencies and more obviously western-influenced than their elders, seem determined to test musical boundaries.
In recent interviews, the group have spoken of the effects an increasingly urbanised culture back home in Tamanrasset, Algeria has had on their music. The internet, so the band say, lead to an abundance of influences not readily available to generations before them. It is these influences, along with a youthful willingness to stray from tradition which sees Imarhan seamlessly oscillate from bluesy desert-rock to echo-heavy psych. Undoubtedly, It is the blending of musical styles and cultures which has made the debut album such a critical success.
Whilst it is the brooding, soulful numbers which remain truer to their Saharan roots, the band are at their most contagious on the relentlessly feverish ‘Imarhan’ and ‘Tahabort’. Heard live, the infectiousness of the up-tempo album tracks is instantaneous. Crucially, the mellifluous charm of the native Tamasheq language remains as does the sonorous calabash percussion. Meanwhile, effortlessly delivering spiky riffs, vocalist and lead guitarist Sadam is reminiscent of a Nomad-era Bombino.
The set is essentially a rearrangement of the album tracklisting, punctuated only briefly by succinct words of gratitude but accompanied throughout with handclaps and smiles from band and audience alike. The five-piece radiate an obvious and endearing enjoyment in their music and the characteristic enthusiasm naturally permeates through to the crowd.
Just one release in and already establishing themselves alongside revered Tuareg artists, the quintet are sure to be around for some time yet. In the modern climate of jaded scenes and tiring genres, daring international acts like Imarhan could well be the tonic needed to reinvigorate guitar-based music.
This Imarhan article was written by Elliot Houchell, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit : Roland Owznitski