Toumast - Ishumar


(Real World/Ryko)

First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2008, Volume 15, #4

Written by John Metzger

Mon April 14, 2008, 09:00 AM CDT


The problem with the mass commercialization of rock ínĎ roll is that the genre has lost much of its ability to connect on anything more than a superficial level. As songs increasingly are written to follow a preordained formula, one which is designed primarily to obtain maximum exposure through mainstream radio outlets as well as television programs, the resulting music inevitably becomes diluted until only a homogenized mass of mediocrity is left. There always will be a few artists such as Radiohead who will do everything possible to buck the system from within. Yet, it seems as if, with increasing frequency, the most inspired, impassioned, and original sounds are emanating from foreign soils.

Toumastís Ishumar is a prime example of how Western ideas are being adopted and reformulated in intriguing ways. Under the guidance of Moussa Ag Keyna, Aminatou Goumar, and multi-instrumentalist Dan Levy, the ensemble essentially turns blues motifs inside out and upside down by injecting them with an array of exotic textures. Both Ali Farka Toure and Tinariwen serve as the primary influences upon the outfit, and not surprisingly, the desert-meets-delta spin that the group places upon John Lee Hookerís signature style infiltrates tracks such as Innulamane and Ezeref. Both Goumarís assertive ululations and Keynaís probing guitar playing adopt the raw power of rock ínĎ roll to suit a new purpose, but when Levy unleashes a fluttering soprano saxophone solo during Tallyatidagh, John Coltraneís spiritual A Love Supreme seems to hover alongside the framework of the notes he traces through the air.

Toumastís lyrics run the gamut from pledges of devotion to political commentary, and delivered in the groupís native tongue, they obtain a poetic, mesmerizing quality. While they translate awkwardly into English, reading through the words of Ishumarís songs via the translation that is provided in the accompanying booklet proves to be helpful, nonetheless, because it provides a basic understanding of Toumastís perspective. The music, however, is where the real communication occurs. From the hypnotic, rhythmic pulse of Dounia to the haunting anguish of Maraou Oran to the sense of determined perseverance that permeates Ammilana, the emotions that the band is trying to convey are unmistakable.

In the end, Ishumar is an impassioned affair that relays the struggles as well as the hopes and dreams of a culture of people from a distant land. The underlying messages and sentiments that are expressed undeniably hold universal appeal, and the outing is filled with more heart and soul than most of the material that is being peddled to the masses. starstarstar Ĺ


Of Further Interest...

Dobet Gnahore - Na Afriki

Tinariwen - Aman Iman

Vieux Farka Toure - self-titled


Ishumar is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!



1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2008 The Music Box