It must have been quite a challenge for those good guys and girls at Melting Vinyl to come up with a suitable support for a proposition as different to your usual Brighton band as Tamikrest. Popular convention would dictate there aren’t vast numbers of Tuareg bluesmen currently plying their trade in our fair city, so it was a really pleasant surprise that they got an act not only talented but that fitted the ethos of the night. Roshi feat Pars Radio is a combination of the undemonstrative, efficient electronics of Graham Dowdall and the occasional synth and impressive vocals of Roshi Nasehi.
They play a set mixed between contemporised, traditional Iranian songs, the most memorable being ‘Maston’ (Drunk on Love) and their own productions. The Iranian songs are intriguing: music normally played on traditional instrumentation is filtered through Dowdall’s set up, whilst their own compositions bear similarities with the intelligent and dark pop of acts such as Saint Etienne or Portishead. The constant throughout this is Roshi’s voice, which is restrained, beautiful and excels in higher registers. On highlight ‘Isle of Eigg’ she is reminiscent of a darkwave Kate Bush, with the juxtaposition of the understated, naked keys and sparse beats with her soaring vocals. Apparently, they play next on 29 November with Dowdall’s old collaborator David Thomas of Pere Ubu fame. On this showing I would suggest they’d be well worth catching.
Tamikrest –from the Tamashek for “gathering”- are Tuareg people, a nomadic tribe that derives from Saharan North Africa. The band’s existence owes as much to a desire to spread the message of the Tuareg people’s struggle against the governments of the region and, more recently, Islamic fundamentalists, as it does to an old fashioned desire to rock out. They are seen as worthy successors to legends of Northern African music Tinariwen and on this showing it really isn’t hard to work out why.
The undoubted highlight of the show is the seeing lead singer, lead guitarist, chief songwriter and Bob Marley lookalike Ousmane Ag Nossa up close. He demonstrates – throughout the gig but especially on opener ‘Tisnant An Chatma‘ – an uncanny ability to weave his snake-like lead guitar through the songs only to, at the moment that you think he’s lost, break back into rhythm with his band mates. There is a sixth sense at play here and one of the best guitarists I’ve seen on a Brighton stage for some time. The merch stall, carrying leather goods and Northern African robes, was a good indication of what to expect from the band visually, with all in traditional dress and headscarfs, even French rhythm guitarist Paul Salvagnac making the effort to look the part. The instrumentation also included calabashes and djembes, whilst the air of African tradition was further enhanced with ululations galore from crowd and outstanding female co-singer Wolou Walet Sidati. The band were clearly well practiced, with the rhythm section particularly noticeable on reggae influenced ‘Itous’.
One unavoidable gripe was going to be due to my French not ever getting beyond GCSE level, I didn’t have the opportunity to hear the words behind Ousmane’s obviously impassioned singing as well as his talk between songs. This was alleviated to some degree by the ability of the band to convey emotion through their playing but also by a translated mid-set monologue where he communicated to the crowd of the respect women are held in in Tuareg societies (a common theme on their new record, Chatma) and the dismay that the current wave of Islamic fundamentalism brings them. He ended this by dedicating a gorgeous, downbeat ‘Aratane N’Adagh‘ to the suffering of the children of Sahara. I’m guessing he was too polite to mention the English and French colonialists contribution towards the Tuareg’s lack of a homeland.
Close to an hour and a half after they started the band exit the stage for the second time, leaving behind a tired, sweaty dancefloor and hands red raw from clapping. It’s refreshing that a band this accomplished and fun can have a deeply serious message and clearly the crowd appreciated this.