El Wali – Tiris

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Artist: El Wali

Release Title: Tiris

Label: Sahel Sounds & Badawi Sahrawi Archives

Release Date: 6 December 2019

Location: Western Sahara

Digital Price: 8 USD

Length: 56min 14s

It’s always nice to return to music of the Sahara. Today we’re going to be looking at Tiris, a release from an old Western Saharan band called El Wali. Back in 2019, Sahel Sounds brought us this fantastic example of Sahrawi modes and folk music mixed with European scales and instrumentation. On top of that, this is liberation music, highly political and recorded in the midst of a struggle, as music from the Sahara so often has been. To that very point, Tiris reflects a style of music that was popular in refugee camps.

Tiris was recorded while on tour in Belgium back in 1994 and after a somewhat difficult release, coupled with production that isn’t as slick and polished as other international folk music releases were at the time, meant that Tiris disappeared pretty quickly. Nevertheless, after a painstaking effort to track down the artists, studio, and original recordings, we finally have a proper issue of this album, thanks to Badawi Sahrawi Archives and Sahel Sounds.

I get chills listening to some of these tracks. The People of El Aaiún has some fun synth flourishes, joyful vocals and has some simple, bouncy bass lines throughout. 20 of May has this real soft and moody couple of minutes at the beginning, before we’re hit with some happy synth pipes and more of that pleasant bassy goodness. Brave People has some drum flourishes that have me focusing in on them every time, even though the drumwork is relatively simple compared to what, say, your average prog or metal fan will be used to.

That’s ok because this is folk music and there’s a revolutionary joy that permeates the whole album. There’s a bit of that fun drumwork in I Sing for the Country and in parts of a few other tracks as well, and I find myself looking forward to those sections each time. Some of those drum fills in Dreams and Nostalgia get me air drumming every time.

Some of the rhythms and compositions strike my ears as quite unusual, but that isn’t a bad thing. It took a little getting used to at first, but after listening to a few tracks I already found myself bopping along, wondering how these rhythms might be incorporated into hip hop to make some really fresh beats. Once I hear Dreams and Nostalgia I feel an urge to cruise, enjoy those good times while they’re here, filling myself with the confidence I need to face the hard times to come.

That’s the kind of vibe that I really love about Tiris, and it’s the kind of vibe that I hope it brings to people everywhere, including those from the Sahara, or people with connections there. There’s some heartfelt emotions in these tracks that still have some relevance to struggles in the Sahara today. Even if you know nothing about those struggles, that’s ok – because Tiris is just a good, fun listen.

I hope you enjoy Tiris.

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