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Aratane 5 1. 20. Tidite Tille 3 5. Tahoult 4 1. 40. Alhoriya 3 2. Ahar 3 0. 91. 0. Adounia Mahegagh 3 3. Toumastin 4 2. 4As far as Im concerned, its 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 dont come through, then Touareg music will eventually die. They created the path and now its up to us to walk down it and create the future. Ousmane was born twenty seven years ago in a village called Tin Zaouaten, a solitary speck squeezed up against Malis northeastern border with Algeria. Its a remote marginal place. Or to put it another way theres distant, theres remote and beyond both of those theres Tin Zaouaten. To an outsider, the village would appear to be nothing more than a motley collection of one storey adobe and breeze block houses, huddling together for protection against the burning sun, the black rocky hills and the lonely immensity of the surrounding desert. But to Ousmane, its home. Like its neighbour Tessalit, two hundred and fifty kilometres to the west, Tin Zaouaten is blessed with a water table that lurks benignly just below the surface of the gritty soil. Dig a few metres and you can usually find water in abundance. Thats why Tin Zaouaten, or Tinza for short, is famed in the desert for its gardens and garden produce. Ousmanes father Mossa was born a nomad out in the bush, but by the time Ousmane arrived he had settled in Tinza, making a living from growing onions, beetroot, carrots and dates, and selling them in the local markets. In 1. 98. 5 drought shook desert life to its core. The rains had failed for several seasons and the village was haunted by famine. I was born in a time of calamity, says Ousmane. In the middle of dreadful events for the Touareg people. My parents knew so much hardship. Then when I was five years old the rebellion broke out. It was 1. 99. 0, the year of war. I was a child, and I used to hide in amongst the rocks with the other women and children, just a few kilometres north of the village over the Algerian border. When I think of that time, its as if its all still happening in front of me. Thus Ousmanes childhood was buffeted by the searing winds of recent Touareg history. The droughts of 6. Touareg. The drought of 8. Thousands of young men fled into exile in Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso and beyond. Thats where the modern Touareg guitar style of music was born and then nourished by anger, homesickness, frustration and dreams of a better life. It was this generation of Touareg men, known as the ishumar, who returned to Mali and Niger in 1. Bamako and Niamey. At first Ousmane just listened to traditional Touareg music at home, and the newer guitar music on battered old cassettes. I well remember hearing my first Tinariwen songs. I was about five. After the death of my mother, my father was obliged to take me to live with my grown up sister. One morning I was sitting in front of the house and this guy walked by singing a song by Inteyeden called Imidiwan Kel Hoggar My Friends the Hoggar People. It went straight into my brainha ha ha. A few years later Ousmane began to play the guitar himself, and write songs. He was attending a school in Tinza called Les Enfants delAdrar, set up by a French NGO and a local man turned community leader called Hama Ag Sid Ahmed. At the end of every school year the children would create and perform musical plays about pressing themes like ignorance, drought, education and culture. Hama bought the school an acoustic guitar, and Ousmane adopted the instrument. With his constant friend Cheikh Ag Tiglia, he would write songs and perform them at the school shows. He learned the Tamashek guitar style by listening to a particular cassette which Tinariwens leader Ibrahim Abaraybone had recorded in Algeria back in 1. In 2. 00. 2, events once again undermined the tenuous calm and stability in Tinza. The village was home to one of the southern deserts most infamous freedom fighters and warlords, Ibrahim Ag Bahanga. For this reason it became a military no go zone. Ousmanes father left to live with his eldest sons in Libya, and both Ousmane and Cheikh went south to Kidal. Kidal is the capital of the far north east of Mali, a region known as the Adagh des Iforas The Mountains of the clan Iforas. With its wide sandy streets and dispersed one storey earthen houses, Kidal has the feel of a frontier town. For the Adagh Touareg, its where it all happens. Ousmane and Cheikh played the guitar and sang in hidden corners of Kidal, around a fire, drinking bittersweet Touareg tea with their friends. Their reputations grew very slowly, steadily, without wild leaps or fanfares. After a while they heard that a local cultural centre called the DDRK or Maison du Luxembourg, founded by the Duchess of Luxembourg who had fallen in love with the town when she visited it in 2. The teacher turned out to be Juhan Ecar, a musician from Ivory Coast. Then this French theatre troupe called La Calma arrived in town and enrolled over fifty young people to perform a massive theatre piece featuring sketches about a host of local issues. It went down a storm in January 2. The Saharan Nights of Essouk. Although Ousmane didnt take part in the project, claiming disinterest in theatre Im a musiciantheatres not my thing, Cheikh went along and played with a local percussionist called Aghaly Ag Mohammedine and a bass player called Ibrahim Ahmed, aka Pinnochio or Pino for short. On their return, Pino proposed that they form a proper band and record a demo at a small studio, which had been set up at the Maison du Luxembourg. They also decided that they needed a name, and agreed on Tamikrest, which means the knot, the junction, the coalition, in Tamashek, the language of Touareg. Each of us came from a different place, a different zone, explains Ousmane. Cheikh and I from Tinza. Aghaly and Mossa Maiga from Kidal. Pino from Gao. But we found each other and we had the same ideas, the same intentions. We were like a coalition. On the 2. May 2. 00. Kidal was attacked by a new Touareg rebel movement called the Alliance Dmocratique pour le Changement ADC. It was a hard time for me, remembers Ousmane. I woke up early that morning and discovered that the town had turned into a nightmare. Those who wanted to join the rebels had already done so. But, in general, that wasnt the choice of me and my friends. Because wed never been in the army. We were musicians, not people who carry arms. By the end of the year a fragile peace had been restored, although Tinzas recalcitrant son Ibrahim Ag Bahanga refused to compromise and remained on the run with his own splinter militia. Tamikrest performed at the peace Forum in March 2. Touareg rebels met with the Malian government and thousands of community representatives in Kidal to map out a way forward. The group were developing their style and their fan base, which consisted mainly of Kidals younger generation. They knew the Tamashek guitar style intimately, but they were also deeply into rap, metal, Maghrebi pop and afro disco music from Ivory Coast. 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