On Saturday night at midnight Terakaft took the stage at Joe’s Pub. The two guitarist bandleaders, Sanou Ag Ahmed and his uncle Liya Ag Ablil, better known as Diara, played their style of Tuareg rock with great consistency and feeling. The elder Diara had the stately stage presence of a respected and wisened veteran of the Saharan music scene. Sanou played with youthful energy, sometimes shaking to the rhythms as he sang and played his electric guitar. Both wore the traditional tagelmust (turbans) and robes of their people, the Kel Tamasheq.
Terakaft’s latest album is titled Kel Tamasheq, so cultural identity clearly plays a major factor in their musical and lyrical content. Terakaft’s name itself means “caravan” in Tamasheq, and during the concert they made reference to the Caravan of Peace, the loose association of musicians from Northern Mali who have traveled around the world in the aftermath of the violent struggle in their region.
For fans of the more well known Kel Tamasheq group Tinariwen, many of Terakaft’s songs Saturday night would have felt familiar. The similarity in styles makes sense, as Diara is a founding member of Tinariwen, and both of Terakaft’s bandleaders have played with Tinariwen in the past. While Terakaft may not have played anything unexpected, the audience appreciated their mastery of electric guitar grooves and the culture of the Sahara that they brought with them.