Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Tamikrest: Chatma [Glitterbeat, 2013]
Life got even tougher for the Kel Tamashek before this album was recorded, as thugs claiming piety imposed Sharia on a nomad culture that never trucked with the sadism of Islam's self-proclaimed ultra-orthodox. So as they fled their ancestral base in eastern Mali, these commercially ascendant, politically down youngbloods found themselves with a double set of injustices to address. And on an album whose title translates Sisters, that's what they've done. They've done it by honoring the uncommonly woman-friendly Tuareg ethos, including the installation of Wonou Walet Sidati, a female veteran of their revered Tinariwen, as the (near) equal of Ousmane ag Massa. They've done it by embracing both rock drumming and West African beats. They've done it by upping the Third World skank and absorbing a French guitarist and telling the world that the spacey "Assikal" is their Pink Floyd song. They've done it by voicing their despair and living their dreams at the same time. They've done it the 21st-century way. A-