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Aratan N Azawad by Terakaft
Released: Jun 2011
Label: World Village
In the increasingly crowded desert blues market, this Malian outfit sets itself apart with a sound that embraces some of the blues' country leanings -- and a decidedly less mournful aesthetic than a lot of their peers. With its galloping woodblocks and the bow-legged swagger of its guitars, "Idiya Idohena" evokes cowboy balladry (with choral Touareg vocals over top), while "Akoz Imgharen" floods its grave call-and-response with sunny Afro-pop. Even more somber cuts often wind up upbeat: "Wer Essinen" begins with meditative vocals, but gradually layers in buoyant handclaps and raucous guitars.
Rachel Devitt

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