Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Live From Festival Au Desert Timbuktu [Clermont Music, 2013]
Recorded soundboard-to-Marantz two days before full war broke out and sharia began its forced march through northern Mali, this doesn't translate as readily as the first edition a decade ago. Although Saharan music has gone somewhat international since then, there's even less melody and groove, widely known acts are few, and of those both Tartit and Bassekou Kouyate fail to peak. But when I buckled down to listen to six straight unfamiliar names in the middle, I concentrated effortlessly as the first four demonstrated different ways men can yell at each other, with Odwa's "Tamnana" winning the argument. Then right after Khaira Arby's "La Liberte" made an ideological point, and later her guitarist Oumar Konate made a godly one. Inshallah, they'll once again be sure of their freedom to play their music a year from now. A-