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Album Review

by Imanaren

Soot/Dutty Artz

Review Date
13th February 2012
Reviewed by
Martyn Pepperell

As the bandleader to Berber folk trio Imanaren, Moroccan musician Hassan Wargui handcrafts a soundworld seemingly driven by the deep feelings generated through the complex relationship between village and city (an interplay also evident in the English folk traditions of the 60s/70s). In the introduction to the music video clip for album opener 'Taldrar N Lawlia (Flowering of the Wise)', whist sitting in a Casablanca coffee house, Wargui verbally illustrates his personal venn diagram. He lives in the bustling, crowded city, because it allows him to make money from recording and playing music. Money he sends home to his family in the Berber village of Issafn (South Morocco). However, opportunity notwithstanding, there is nothing he would rather do than return to the countryside. As he puts it, "In the village music sounds more beautiful, because the village itself is beautiful."

Tragically though, Wargui's family and the rest of the village elders look down on such music, to the extent where he is not even allowed to play banjo or sing inside the family home. So, as he also reveals in the video clip, "For making music, it is better to be here [in Casablanca]. I bring the village music [feeling] with me to Casablanca, and I am happy to be making music here, because no one asks me questions and I am free to do my work." Working with wildly played banjo, ethereal group vocals and a mixture of traditional percussion and programmed beats, the seven songs encased in this album wistfully express the twin pulls which are centralities to Wargui's existence - village vs. city. The feeling of living as an endlessly daydreaming escapist. Always yearning for an idealised elsewhere; never quite fitting in anywhere.

Hypnotic, relaxing and transformative, with titles which translate into English phrases like 'Companions', 'Rights', and 'The Rose', it's also worthwhile noting that Imanaren's songs of love and revolution, all vocalised in Tashelhit (one of the several major tongues of Tamazight), exist within a tradition of 70s and 80s Berber bands such as Archach and Izenzaren, who used song as a soapbox to air issues relating to their day-to-day reality. Interestingly, in juxtaposition to this, and again a by-product of the village vs. city dynamic, outside of the Moroccan musical world, Wargui, without irony, identifies Shakira, Celine Dion, Eminem and Akon as amongst his favourite musicians, influences you'd never glean from Imanarean's reverb heavy, dusty sonic palette.

When Wargui and his peers were growing up in Issafn, with practice at home absolutely forbidden, they had to settle for a cave down by the local river. For a group of growing musicians, this fantastic locale must have contributed to the lucid sense of haunting otherness inherent throughout Imanaren's songs. Sitting in perfect compliment with this, Imanaren is the Tamazight word for the three stars of Orion's belt. It's the ideal name for a group whose works are so deeply imbued with magic realism. Could this perhaps be the musical equivalent of One Hundred Years of Solitude?


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