Rising stars of desert rock, the five musicians of Imarhan (“those who wish me well” in the Tamashek language) stride in the footsteps of their Tuareg big brothers, Tinariwen.
From Tamanrasset, in southern Algeria, Imarhan consists of five friends: singer and guitarist Sadam (whose real name is Iyad Moussa Ben Abderahmane), backed by the voices and instruments of Hicham Bouhasse and Haiballah Akhamouk on percussions, Tahar Khaldi on bass and Abdelkader Ourzig on electric guitar.
Their guitars became tuned in 2008 under the guidance of a cousin of Sadam, none other than Tinariwen’s bass player, Eyadou Ag Leche. In some ways, he is the sixth musketeer of Imarhan, handling the production of their eponymous first album, launched in 2016, and writing some of its compositions.
Imarhan was propelled into the big leagues when Sadam replaced Tinariwen’s famous guitarist and founder on tour for two years. The influence of the desert blues pioneers is thus very strong, but Imarhan is well able to stand out. When the group’s first album came out in 2016, they were immediately dubbed the “new wave” of Tuareg music, blending the poetry and rhythms of their ancestors with the sensuality of Algerian raï and the vigour of West African guitar riffs.
The members of Imarhan, bluesmen but rockers as well, wear leather jackets over their djellabahs. They emerge to some extent from the “assouf” (nostalgia) of the desert to explore the electrifying melodies of the city, incorporating the electronic and pop-rock influences of Daft Punk or Michael Jackson that were part of their childhood. Less meditative than their first album, their second one, Temet (“connections”) is marked by the energy of tours in Europe, the United States and China.
With their tours in New York, London or Québec, Imarhan’s modern Tuaregs live in the Internet era but never forget their “ashak,” the basic values of dignity, hospitality, respect and consideration. In the 1990s, Tinariwen became involved in the Tuareg armed rebel movement, but today Imarhan’s new generation is launching an appeal for unity to seek a collective resolution of the problems affecting the desert communities. For them, the message is clear: music, language and friendship are the best vectors for maintaining the link between the Kel Tamashek (Tamashek-speaking) peoples living between northern Mali, southern Algeria and Niger.