“Terakaft means ‘caravan.’ They started their caravan in Mali and made it all the way to Austin,” percussionist Brahim Fribgane grinned at the onset of the group’s Austin Psych Fest debut. “Just imagine how long it takes to get from West Africa to Austin!”
The Taureg guitar group, led by Malian exiles Sanou Ag Ahmed and his elder counterpart Liya Ag Ablil (better known as Diara) arrived flanked by Fribgane on cajon and Canadian Richard Emery on bass. Together, the foursome was the first group to pack APF’s riverside amphitheater with the early evening Friday performance, for which Sanou and Diara appeared in bright blue dashikis and veils.
They stumbled out of the gate, awkwardly noodling around the melody and falling behind the beat. Then synchronicity prevailed and their tranquil, camel-walk groove – elements of African, Arabic, and American music – rode high. In the Tamasheq language, Sanou and Diara detailed life in the desert with exotic melodies sung in union.
Over loping rhythms, the guitarists took turns streaming fingerpicked leads, rich with hammer-ons and slide downs, using a minor pentatonic scale with flat second and sharp fifth notes. During one solo, Diara went off on a tangent of repeated phrasings that then turned the beat around and forced his bandmates to accelerate. The audience responded, leaving its perches to dance in the open area in front of the stage.
Trotting to the foreign sounds, the crowd’s feet battered the dry earth and a dust cloud rose around the stage. Diara, only the center of his aged face visible through his head wrap, peered with eagle eyes through the dirt at the familiar scene.
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