Album Review: Alhousseini Anivolla – Osas, It’s Time [Fidjomusic, 8th April 2017]

Former Tinariwen & Etran Finatawa guitarist and vocalist Alhousseini Anivolla is a self-proclaimed ambassador for cultural diversity in a changing world; a nomad whose experiences inspire and inform his song writing. This second solo album Osas – It’s Time is simple in both concept and execution. Stripped down production and a spontaneous feel belie the accomplished playing. The understated delivery is transcended by highly symbolic lyrics that ache with nostalgia for ancient traditions and the beauty of the Sahara Desert. Isolation and flight are key themes in Anivolla’s music as he wanders the planet, from his home in Niamy, Niger to his European base in Berlin and beyond. Unlike his previous solo album Anewal-The Walking Man (recorded in his home country and released in 2012), this one was recorded in Wales with producer Colin Bass, who had previously worked with Anivolla on his Etran Finatawa albums.

Although this album loses something of the atmosphere of his previous one, it still rolls along at an utterly hypnotic and lilting camel’s pace. The album begins as you might expect, introducing the distinctive rhythms associated with desert blues played on electric guitar with a simple calabash accompaniment, while Tamashek vocals cut in with an edgy insistence. It takes a while to warm up, but by the time it reaches the three stand-out tracks you are hooked. Isouwad, with its relentless up-tempo, hypnotic electric guitar groove is reminiscent of the Malian sounds of early Amadou & Mariam, with guitar breaks that seem to rise on thermal currents. Algher has a beautiful pace that you cannot help but move your body to, and Tamadrite Nackal’s jangling guitar interplay gives it a delightful live feel.

This is not a flashy album with the kind of guitar work you get from the likes of Bombino, though Chet Azawad jangles with a superbly pulsing guitar break. What the soundscape lacks in variety due to minimal input from other musicians it makes up for in style. With its call and response vocals there’s a different dynamic in Asalam that adds something of a Berber flavour, and the contrast of a lumpy, unsteady gait in Osas adds a refreshing new vibe, characterised by the poignancy of the track Idinite.

Anivolla’s album Osas – It’s Time aches with a distinctly intense Tamashek feeling, adding to the growing canon that tells of a new kind of nomadic existence.