Assouf: The Blues of the Desert
On the coldest day of 2021, musician and writer Samira Dainan went to Poppodium Duycker in Hoofddorp to meet with Ousmane Ag Mossa, the bandleader of Tamikrest. Named the new legend of Tuareg music, Ousmane speaks on what it means to write music in the solitude of the Sahara desert. In this podcast, he speaks on the power and the meaning of his music, and how each song breaths a whole life-world and history.
Many of the Tuareg people have been displaced from their native land and are living in refugee camps near the Algerian border and in Northern Mali. More than 30 years ago, the legendary group Tinariwen began to play their own music style, which is often referred to as 'guitar poetry' or 'assouf'. The language of this music is Tamasheq and its prime emotion is assouf, which means loss, longing, homesickness or "the pain that is not physical". It's a word that encompasses everything the Tuareg once had, but have since lost. No word is more common in modern Tuareg music and poetry.
In the desert I found that my own assouf, or homesickness, was understood by the great silence but also by the generosity of the people. The way the people lived in such hard circumstances, while still so free at heart, and dignified, inspired me to write new music.
They asked me who I am and what I want
I replied that we are history and change. We are the volcano that comes from afar.
We are the Kel Tamasheq people, become servant of servants
We are the ones who have suffered oppression for years
We are the people who hope for better days
I was asked who I am, I was asked what I wanted
I didn't look for an answer, I just closed my eyes and let our experiences speak.
I'm a volcano of distress and oppression and it's up to me to choose my path
I am that rebellious spirit born of cruelty. Let that dupe, ignorant know that I'll never put myself down
These are the days that choose fate, and I'm at the heart of that fate
I am the one whose time thought it had the consent to impose its injustice and kill my youth.
Never say my cause is lost, my cause has just begun
I am my legacy, my song and my tears
I am myself, I am behind the veil
I am a volcano of sadness that will destroy and reveal the lie in its path
(Tamikrest - As Sastnan Hidjan)
With special thanks to Ousmane Ag Mossa for the interview.
Tamikrest is currently touring across 12 countries and has 3 upcoming concerts in The Netherlands:
26th May 2022, Luxor - Arnhem
27th May 2022, Podium De Vorstin - Hilversum
29th May 2022, De Effenaar - Eindhoven
More info: www.tamikrest.net