Kel Assouf – Black Tenere

Album Review | Glitterbeat | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 4/5

For anyone new to the raw and pulsating sound of desert blues, Kel Assouf pretty much lays out the essential tenets of the genre on this album. The Nigerien guitarist Anana Ag Naroun brandishes his trusty Gibson ‘Flying V’ like any western rock god and his licks dominate the band’s sound. Augmented by drummer Oliver Penu and producer/keyboard player Sofyann Ben Youssef, the trio’s exuberant energy can be felt immediately as they launch into the infectious guitar riff on “Fransa.”

Based in Belgium, the trio steadfastly approach the guitar riff-laden rock numbers with some urgency, although Youssef’s keyboard is equally energetic on such tracks as “Tenere” and “Ariyal” as are the prominent drums. Lyrically, the songs have a tragic potency and refer to the ongoing struggles of the nomadic Kel Tamashek. Some of that passion is evident in these songs. It’s not entirely made up of adrenaline-laden rockers though, as we are treated to a moment of sensitivity on the utterly beautiful “Tamatant”, which seems to shimmer on an oasis of golden desert sand.