Consumer Guide Album
The Rough Guide to the Music of the Sahara [World Music Network, 2005]
Maybe it's just the harem scenes in racist movies, but seldom will you hear a regional compilation at once so distant and so familiar. The Sahara is bigger than Europe, and insofar as these often nomadic artists--very few of whom I'd heard before, with only the jet-setting Tinariwen and one other on Festival in the Desert--have home bases, most hail from lands thousands of miles apart, and further off the musical map than Mali: Mauritania, Niger, Libya, the Morocco-occupied "Western Sahara." Yet except for the closer, a long poem-sermon with rosewood flute by an Algerian Berber, they share lulling chants, many by women, and a steady pulse that seems neither African nor European but "Arab," which it isn't. Although often born of political conflict, they evoke eternal things--subsistence beyond nations, a post-nuclear future, world without end amen.