This essay examines the origins and directions of ichumar (also called tichumaren in some regions), a genre of guitar music popular among young Tuaregs in Mali and Niger. Initially composed and performed by Tuareg nationalist/separatist rebels, it is now composed and performed by “rock-style” bands at urban festivals, holidays, political rallies, and rites of passage. Originally this music was highly political, forbidden because it critiqued colonial and postcolonial domination and warned of threats to the Tuareg's cultural survival. Although songs now address broader themes, some lyrics continue to commemorate and praise ideals and heroes from the Tuareg rebellion. This essay explores the historical and ethnographic context of this genre and analyzes selected lyrics, performance contexts, and audience responses—first to tapes of rebel songs that circulated noncommercially and now to live performances—in order to explore emergent themes and performances of this music in relation to theories of cultural memory, performance, and resistance.

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