Imarhan – Interview – 2016

Imarhan are born out of the legacy created by Tinariwen, the West African band who have championed the Tuareg genre globally for more than 35 years. Imarhan disassemble the traditional ideas of Tuareg music by putting together calming and soulful rhythms that captivate instantly. Each track on their eponymous debut album is as passionate and complex as the last, holding a unique intimacy in their diverse melodies. Even after a single listen, there is no doubt you will be hocked on Imarhan's every note and as the band are bringing their new wave Tuareg sound to Brighton, we asked them some questions to find out more.

Is there much of a music scene where you grew up?
Yes, most of the young guys in Tamanrasset (Algeria) play guitars and make their own bands. They play at family celebrations or friends’ parties, but we don’t have specific music venues over there. What is mostly missing in Tamanrasset to me is a recording studio. With the band we wish to build a recording studio, for us and to give the chance for young people in Tamanrasset to be able to record in their home place too.

Do you think where you live has influenced your music and how?
Sure, and for all Tuareg bands, our desert is the main inspiration. We, Imarhan, all live in a city which is surrounded by the desert. We are inspired by places where you can breathe and enjoy the “unlimited” nature. We are all lucky that we can feel both energies – the city and the nature of the desert.

What kind of music were you brought up on?
Our very first musical memory is of Tinariwen. We listened a lot to Ali Farka Touré too.

What was the first instrument you played?
The guitar. I first started playing the guitar while listening to Tinariwen and especially Abraybone (Ibrahim Ag Alhabib from Tinariwen). It all drove me to write my own music with my friends.

Has your style of music stayed the same?
Imarhan’s music has been evolving and will always evolve. The more we travel, the more we get to discover new music. We don’t want to stick to a specific genre and we are open to all kinds of good music.

How was Imarhan formed?
In 2006 we started the band, we grew up in the same neighbourhood and have always been friends. Imarhan means ‘those who wish you well’ – it’s mostly a friendship story, a mate’s story.

How would you briefly describe your music?
A mix between Tuareg traditional music and occidental music, rock, funk, pop…

What inspires your lyrics?
Our daily life as young guys in the desert – nature, love, social issues, …

How do you approach the writing process?
We write anywhere at anytime. On tour or at home – it’s a natural process so we don’t hide away.

Do you prefer writing music or performing live?
We need both!

Tell us a bit about your debut album Imarhan?
Eyadou Ag Leche, the bass guitarist of Tinariwen, has been a strong help on our debut album. He wrote some of the songs and he co-produced our album. The songs have existed for a long time. We grew up naturally with them. We started playing shows in Europe and found our label City Slang after a show in Paris, then it all sped up.

What is your favourite song that you have made or have been part of, and why?
Id Islegh’ and ‘Imarhan’, because we wrote them a long time ago and they sum up our identity.

What effect has the internet had modern Tuareg music?
A big one. We get to know many kinds of music thanks to internet that the previous generations were not familiar with. It gives a lot to our music for sure.

What has been a musical eye-opener?
I guess Tinariwen memories. Especially Ibrahim Ag Alhabib from Tinariwen. When we realised that our culture got to be known around the World thanks to the music, we felt it was the best door for us to make our culture known – our language around the world.

Who would be in your perfect band?
Ali Farka, Abraybone of Tinariwen, Alla and Dimi Mint Abba. That’s perfect band summing up our desert roots.

What would be your perfect line-up for a concert you are putting on and where would it be?
It would be in Tamanrasset. It would be a sum up of the rock and blues that we like and the Tamanrasset people would like too – BB King, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
Dimi Mint Abba – a powerful female singer from Mauritania.

What has been your happiest memory with music?
All the support shows where we have had the chance to play with Tinariwen and Kurt Vile. We are grateful for the confidence from these artists who made it possible for us to play our first shows in front of big crowds.

What makes you happiest when you are not playing music?
Listening to music. Free time in our desert.

What are your future plans till the end of the year and after?
We are currently touring the UK, which is great. We were waiting for; the crowds to dance, have fun and listen carefully too. It’s an honour seeing the great reactions of the crowds here. We will spend August and September touring in Europe as well as UK festivals.  We will be back to play club shows in London, Bristol, Norwich, Sunderland and the End Of The Road Festival. These are our next plans up to the end of the summer, next year will also be touring. We just recorded two new songs in Tucson, Arizona, which has given us the wish to record more soon again this year too!