Sahar (★★★★): A gold-coated diamond

For nearly three years, Tamino seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. You could call it a somewhat disturbing disappearance, were it not for the fact that the reason for that isolation was a new record. With “Habibi”, the Antwerp native with Egyptian roots quickly conquered a lot of hearts and people abroad were not cold to Tamino’s music either. debut album amir turned out to be a bull’s eye and so expectations for that dreaded second album were very high. When the silence was broken with “The First Disciple” it immediately became clear that the return of the artist would be one through the big gate.

Tamino’s success formula remains broadly the same as on amir; rich, warm vocals on a bed of sounds that seek the balance between east and west. Yet we hear on sahara immediately a more mature artist. It all seems a lot more thoughtful, as if the words have been weighed and weighed countless times, only to return to a very pure and honest version. We didn’t expect less than that, if you know that Tamino has had a number of years for this. The melancholic sound that forms the common thread through the record comes from the Ud, an Arabic instrument that he learned to play under the mentorship of a Syrian refugee.

That time resounds richly throughout the work sahara. “The Longing” immediately takes us to the Middle East where everything is just a bit more graceful and warmer. Tamino sounds like the sun setting over a vast valley, while the last warmth left in the air drapes itself like a blanket over your shoulders. That melancholic landscape continues on “The Flame”, a song that initially has many layers, but quickly returns to the essence. It is precisely in those instrumental parts, where different instruments seem to flow together, that a kind of extra dimension is given to the music.

As if sahara as a whole is not a wonderful gift, we also get to hear a duet with Angèle. Whether Tamino really needed that feature to put his album in the spotlight, we don’t know, but we’re very happy with it anyway. Angèle ventures into English, which is, as always, the official language of Tamino’s music, thus creating an additional fragility. The dynamics between the two are somewhat reminiscent of Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue on “Where The Wild Roses Grow”, but as beautiful as the verses alone are, it’s the chorus that creates pure magic. The strings provide the melancholy that all too often keeps us company at this time of year.

on sahara is brought the same musical quality as on amir and so you could say that there aren’t really any big surprises on the record, although in Tamino’s case that might be what we’re most thankful for. The artist knows how to reinforce his own sound in this way and we can only appreciate that. Contrary to the other songs, “Cinnamon” has a slightly more uptempo chorus that will certainly appeal to the general public. It all sounds a little less heavy, without really losing that typical Tamino factor. The timelessness and lived-in life that we so associate with the Antwerp resident is reflected in songs such as “Only Our Love” or “My Dearest Friend and Enemy”, where on the latter sunbeams gently break through the melancholic cloud cover to give the end something less painful and heavy.

After ten enchanting songs the journey comes through sahara to an end and just like with holidays that leave a deep impression, we enjoy the peace for a while, but we like to leave as soon as possible. Luckily for us, that second Tamino record is now ours forever and we could return at any moment to a bubble where reality seems to be an illusion. If you want to see Tamino live at work, you can do so on December 2 and 3 in Paradiso, Amsterdam and on December 5, 6 and 7 in the Royal Circus in Brussels. If you don’t have tickets for one of these shows yet, then you have to rely on Ticketswap and speed, because Tamino managed to sell out all the dates in no time.

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