Timbuktu was added to the album Thermós, after the album was complete. After I thought it was done, I asked myself, what would be the result if I combined something like simple Gregorian chanting in Dorian or Lydian scale, with modern beats?
I had pictured in my mind, the driest, hottest, dustiest, sandiest, most monochrome place I could think of – and that was Timbuktu in Mali, a place that has become almost mythical. It’s situated on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, and is famous for its ornate and ancient mosques and mausoleums built of mud brick and adobe. In my family, we have a couple of place names that mean “exotic”, and “far away” – one is “Yucatan”, as in “I had an aunt in Yucatan, who bought a python from a man…”, the other is “gone to Timbuktu”, as in, “gone to hell”.
So this place was a mystery to me until I started writing this song and found out about the music of the Tuaregs in Mali. I composed a spare and somber piano melody, and added multi-layered vocalizations, a fast, chiming beat which acts as an ostinato, and synths reminiscent of wheeling, crying birds.
The synths also imitate the humming sound that is typical of music of the inhabitants of the Sahara. I added percussion ensembles, including vibraphones and mallets, to represent the typical “tende” drums used in the region.
Track mastered by Luke Garfield, Banana Llama Studios. Details and credits of footage are in the video.
More about the name of the song
In German, the Sahara Desert is “die Sahara Wüste” – “die” means that the noun is feminine. The word “desert” comes from the 13th century Middle English word “deserte”, derived from the Anglo-French feminine form of “desert”. So, in many ways, a desert is referred to as a mysterious, alluring woman, the same as the sea. With this in mind, the video features beautiful women whose elegant gestures and flowing gowns mirror the rolling desert dunes.