The trend is currently to modernise traditional music from around the world by adding some pop or rock. Too often, this modernisation is carried out with little understanding of the musical roots, or with a cheap beat that might well work in a nightclub but is not necessarily a sign of good musical taste.
Much more interesting are the people that renew a tradition from the inside, such as the late Ali Farka Touré who added electric guitar to desert blues, or for years already, the Malian n’goni player Bassékou Kouyaté who invented a n’goni quartet (sub-Saharan lute).
This is the pedigree to which the group Kel Assouf belongs: it takes the Touareg tradition and tries to bring it more without disfiguring its roots.
When the Nigerian singer/guitarist Aboubacar ‘Anana’ Harouna arrived in Brussels in 2005, he was inspired by the city to bring this superb desert blues up to date. He discovered a city of blends, with a huge cultural diversity, and used it to add a touch of reggae, a hint of Afrobeat, and even some salsa.
With musicians that come from Mauritania, Ghana, France, Mali and Algeria, Kel Assouf is a good reflection of our large European cities: pluri-cultural and full of new musical fusions that carry a message of peace, union and solidarity between people and cultures.
Fans of desert blues need not worry. The influences only enhance music that remained rooted in the Sahara.
Kel Assouf – which means ‘son of the desert’, ‘son of the infinite’ and ‘son of solitude’ – called their first album ‘Tin Hinane’, after an ancient Touareg queen, to symbolise the culture they would like to revitalise and whose story he would like to see written in Tifinagh, the writing of the Touaregs. “The guitar was an important instrument during the Touareg revolution, it helped us stand up for our rights. Now it must serve to make people aware about building our region, to get economic and cultural development of our people on its way.”
Journalist in world music