Words by Nigel Williamson
Exploring the uncharted space between Tuvans and Touaregs
You take the world’s foremost female throat-singer and the rhythm section from Tinariwen, put them in the studio with Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan for two days and they emerge with one of the most intriguing cross-cultural hybrids you’ve heard in a long time, as the twin nomadic traditions of Touaregs and Tuvans collide. Since she first started releasing records in the West in the early 90s, Sainkho Namtchylak has combined throat-singing and shamanism with electronica, avant-garde jazz and much else besides, positioning herself as a world music cross between Björk and Yoko Ono.
She’s now in her late 50s but has lost none of her cutting-edge ability to surprise and startle. From the loping desert blues of the opener ‘Nomadic Mood’ to the droning experimental echoes of ‘The Road Back’ via the minimalist alt-rock of ‘So Strange! So Strange!’ and the steppes-punk of ‘Nostalgia To’, Namtchylak’s multi-octave voice moans, screeches, chants, whoops, growls and, just occasionally, sings in Tuvan, Russian and English. But what is perhaps equally impressive is the audacity of the contributions from the Touareg pair of percussionist Said Ag Ayad and bassist-guitarist Eyadou Ag Leche. Who said Tinariwen are a one-trick camel?