Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Desert Blues

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The desert blues has developed into its own musical genre, the root of the blues. Following its initial popularization by the late Ali Farka Touré (who is represented here, of course, showing how stripped-down his music could be compared to those who have followed), it has really blossomed thanks to the influx of Tuareg bands. After artists like Tartit and Mariem Hassan came Tinariwen, who broke through and really established the desert blues. They were followed by their sub-Saharan companions Terakaft and Tamikrest, who have also been receiving plenty of attention, and yet more names wait in the wings, such as Jalihena Natu. The odd ones out here are Amadou & Mariam, the Malian duo who found a measure of fame recording with Manu Chao. Their music might have a foundation in West African blues, but it is not desert blues, even if the track used here hints at it slightly. As an introduction to the desert blues, this does a very thorough job and the inclusion of an earlier complete album by Etran Finatawa (also on the compilation) adds real value for the money.

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