"Anyone who isn't utterly captivated by the music of this 2 1/2-hour trancelike journey needs to get their ears checked"--Berliner Morgenpost
For seven thousand years, nomadic peoples have lived in and roamed the Sahara Desert in search of better living conditions. They search for a fertile oasis, the only beacon of hope for areas completely devoid of life. Since rain may visit the wettest areas of the desert twice in one week and then hide away for years, a traveler could drive over 100 miles per hour for three days straight without seeing any vegetation or animal life in the largest desert in the world, one that covers a third of the African continent, an area roughly the size of the United States.
For inhabitants of Bahr bela ma (Arabic for ‘ocean without water’), every aspect of life has formed around the continual search for this precious land of life and fertility, their refuge and source of hope. While traveling, traditional bards may carry small instruments like guitars or ngoni’s, on which, like the great American blues masters, they sing of life's tribulations, of survival in the midst of adverse conditions. They carry the tunes with an emotive voice, the kind that is so beautiful and heartfelt that they turn persistent longing into perpetual serenity.
In 1996, Network (www.networkmedien.de) captured these rich North African ballads by gathering them on an incredibly well received two-CD compilation. Ambiances du Sahara: Desert Blues sold in excess of 100,000 copies, as well as winning the German Phonographic Critics Prize and entering second place before remaining in World Music Charts Europe for three months.
As numerous distributors and record shops have urged a follow-up, Network's Christian Scholze and Jean Trouillet spent two years intensively collecting, listening, experimenting, and compiling languid guitar music of twenty-nine artists from eleven North African countries. On January 9, 2003, Network (distributed by Harmonia Mundi USA) will release the long-awaited follow-up double album, Rêves d'oasis: Desert Blues 2. The selection of twenty-six tracks covers a broad spectrum from the traditional to the contemporary, featuring encounters between musicians of different cultures.
Artists like Boubacar Traoré, Cheb Mami, and Grand Papa Diabaté guide the listener through the plains of the Sahel to the sub-tropical forests of Guinea. The lyrics, accompanied by native instruments like the kora, Guinean 'national guitar,' balaphon, and djembe, disclose universal desires for love, peace, and freedom. Just listen to the words of Rokia Traoré: "I will share the joys of life with you/ But happiness cannot prevent pain/ close to you, I will share your sorrows… I will overcome all obstacles to be close to my beloved."