Tartit

Abacabok

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As others have overtaken them, it's easy to forget that Tartit were pioneers among the new generation of desert blues ensembles. But there's a grave celebration in their mostly acoustic sound that's so thoroughly rooted in both place and tradition, with singers backed largely just by drums and handclaps, with a one-string fiddle and three-string lute for melody. This is what they offer on the opener, "Tabey Tarate," with male and female voices trading off in call and response over the rhythm. Abacabok sounds wonderfully spontaneous, as if they'd sat down with the producer and suddenly decided to make the record on the spot, drafting in occasional guests to offer change-ups, as electric guitar and bass do on "Ansari," where the electricity brings them very close to Tinariwen. But that seems like a commercial concession; it's when they're most stripped-down that they shine brightest. Even a luminary like Afel Bocoum doesn't do anything to enhance the purity of their sound. It might seem too stark for some ears, but there's genuine beauty here.

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