Kel Tamishek in Western England

Kel Tamashek is a Berber nomadic people from the Sahara region, also known as the Tuareg. Tamikrest is a group of Kel Tamashek musicians who mix traditional African with Western music. In collaboration with my brother, Clyde, a writer for Think Africa Press and the Guardian, we traveled to the Home Festival in the lush countryside of South Western England to interview and document the various African performers. Catching up with Tamikrest and their thoughtful frontman, Ousmane Ag Mossa, we were offered a fascinating insight into the problems faced by Kel Tamashek.

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"Tamikrest are the next generation of blues musicians to emerge from the Sahara. In a land flooded by Western musical influences, their second album continues to promote their unique desert sound.

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Ousmane considers the militant urgency in his Tamashek vocals to be universally accessible, as he felt was apparent in the alien language of his own musical hero, Bob Marley. There is a concern in his eyebrow movements that speaks beyond the depleting sugar supply. My use of the word ‘Touareg’- a term adopted by the Home Festival flyers and ever-present in a google search related to Tamikrest- is quickly addressed….

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“We prefer to call ourselves Kel Tamashek, which means the people who speak the Tamashek language,” says Ousmane in softly spoken French. “The name Touareg was given to us by foreigners; we would never call ourselves this.”“Three members of the group- Ousmane, Ibrahim and Cheick Ag Tiglia (bass)- grew up in the same village, so we’ve known each other all our lives,” says Ousmane.

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“We started playing music together just to pass time. We were students, and we only played music for our own benefit.""The village is called Tinzaouaten, which is exactly on the Algerian-Malian border. We were lucky enough to attend a private school that was built there by a Kel Tamashek/French organisation- we all know each other from this school. We then went to Kidal to attend college and we found a completely different situation because this was not a private school; we were treated differently because of our heritage."

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"In 2005 and 2006 the Malian government got into a lot of trouble with Kel Tamashek. We wanted to finish our studies, but we found a situation in which we had to face the same problems that our parents had to face. We wanted to finish school and go for a diploma, but the situation wouldn’t allow us to do that. In 2006 Kel Tamashek rebelled against the government, and because of the resulting difficulty in studying we decided to form Tamikrest.”

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