A blog about arts and societies around the world

Nabil Othmani: a fresh air from the Sahara

The story of Tamghart In (my mother) started a few generations ago in Djanet, a small town in South Algeria. Music has always been a strong tradition in the Othmani family, considered by many as natural representatives of the Kel Ajjers culture, the Touaregs from the Algerian Sahara. Nabil thus honours that cultural heritage while embracing a world of modernity and diversity.

The album begins with a reggae-influenced ode to the city of Djanet. Nabil enjoys blending music genres and indulges in the game throughout the 13 tracks. He effortlessly switches from flamenco flavours on ‘Tamghart In’ to ishumar rock à la Tinariwen on ‘Menna’. But it’s ‘Alhoumaq At’ that really stands out right the first time around. The song brings a delicate touch of folk with its catchy melody and captivating guitar solos, combined with the melancholic singing of the young Nabil.

He excels at varying instruments as well. Typical Touareg elements such as classical women-played percussion tindé are introduced. Nabil also adds an unusual tone of western-based ingredients in the form of cello and piano, demonstrating the richness of his inspirations. The real surprise however comes from ‘Nek ahal wagh’ that leaves us on a futuristic note of electric oud and frenetic breakbeats.

Following the example of his Touareg brothers, Nabil speaks about his attachment for the great Sahara desert. His lust for life does not go unnoticed, as messages of love and friendship are ubiquitous from beginning to end. Tamghart In also represents a tribute to Nabil’s ancestors, as he puts his father Baly’s poetry in music on many occasions.

With this encouraging debut, Nabil Othmani confirms the brilliance of the Touareg music. If the album does not reach Tinariwen production standards, it is not the purpose here. Tamghart In is simply a profound journey among the history and traditions of the Othmani family. Well done to the Saharan music specialist Reaktion for finding this music gem.

Nabil Othmani’s unplugged performance of ‘Djanet’:

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