By Michael Endelman
Updated: February 02, 2017
Davies + Starr
Davies + Starr

Desert Rock, a new wave of African music made by members of the nomadic Saharan Tuareg tribe, is building a fervent international audience. Here, what to download right now.

  • Tinariwen, Water Is Life (World Village)
  • The latest by these scene-leaders from Mali is hard-grooving rebel rock that bears deep traces of Delta blues, psychedelic rock, and soul—though its sound is indelibly African.

  • Terakaft, Akh Issudar (Tapsit Import)
  • Two former members of Tinariwen formed Terakaft, whose new compilation is a bit more delicate, though it’s interrupted by moments of Hendrixian guitar virtuosity.

  • Toumast, Ishumar (Real World)
  • Originally from Niger, this male-female duo mixes funk-style vamps with songs glorifying freedom fighters and martyrs.

  • Etran Finatawa, Desert Crossroads (Riverboat Records)
  • This six-man band, with members from the Tuareg and Wodaabe peoples, combines spidery guitar lines with hypnotic hand drums.

  • Ishumar, Music of the Tuareg Resistance (Tapsit Import)
  • A sampler of the various leading lights on the desert-rock circuit.

    Want to hear the music in person?Visit January’s Festival of the Desert ( in Essakane, Mali, where the Tuareg celebrate their culture for three days.