In terms of music and culture, the Sahara is like an inland sea, where the sounds, tastes and colours of peripheral ‘port’ cities like Marrakesh, Sijilmassa, Timbuktu, Agadez, Ghardaia, In Salah, Ghat, Ghadames, Tunis, Tripoli, Siwa, Cairo, Walata, Chinguetti, Djenné and Kano have mingled for centuries.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s Tinariwen who created the path,” declares Ousmane Ag Mossa, frizzy-locked leader of Tamikrest, in a pre-emptive strike against a thousand inevitable questions. “But the way I see it, if younger bands don’t come through, then Touareg music will eventually die. They created the path and now it’s up to us to walk down it and create the future.”
When Tinariwen launch into one of their songs on one of their good nights, I’m immediately transported to the place they come from. My nostrils prick up to the smell of tea, tobacco and gasoline. The pentatonic drone of the music rolls out the endless line of the desert horizons. The perpetual polyrhythms put wanderlust back into my heart and my feet.