Tinariwen, one of the most unique and spellbinding bands on the current scene. Recorded live at Les Inrocks 2016 in Paris and broadcast by Radio France International. Tinariwen, pronounced tinariwen “deserts”, plural of ténéré “desert” is a group of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. The band was formed in 1979 in Tamanrasset, Algeria, but returned to Mali after a cease-fire in the 1990s. The group first started to gain a following outside the Sahara region in 2001 with the release of The Radio Tisdas Sessions, and with performances at Festival au Désert in Mali and the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. Their popularity rose internationally with the release of the critically acclaimed Aman Iman in 2007. NPR calls the group “music’s true rebels”, AllMusic deems the group’s music “a grassroots voice of rebellion”, and Slate calls the group “rock ‘n’ roll rebels whose rebellion, for once, wasn’t just metaphorical”.
n 1998, Tinariwen came to the attention of the French world music ensemble Lo’Jo and their manager Philippe Brix. That group traveled to a music festival in Bamako and met two members of the Tinariwen collective. In 1999 some members of Tinariwen traveled to France and performed with Lo’Jo under the name Azawad. The two groups organized the January 2001 Festival au Désert in Essakane, Mali with Tinariwen as the headliners, and in close cooperation with the Belgian Sfinks Festival. The festival brought much outside attention to Tinariwen. By the end of 2001, Tinariwen had performed at WOMAD and Roskilde. Their debut CD, The Radio Tisdas Sessions, was recorded by Justin Adams and Jean-Paul Romann at the radio station of the same name (the only Tamashek-speaking station in Kidal, Mali) and released in 2001. It was Tinariwen’s first recording to be released outside of northern Africa.
Since 2001 Tinariwen have toured regularly in Europe, North America, Japan, and Australia; often appearing at large world music/alternative festivals like Glastonbury, Coachella, Roskilde, Les Vieilles Charrues, WOMAD, FMM Sines, and Printemps de Bourges. Tinariwen gained more attention overseas in 2004, with their first UK performance at the largest free African music festival in the country, Africa Oye. Their 2004 album Amassakoul (“The Traveller” in Tamashek) and its 2007 follow-up Aman Iman (“Water Is Life” in Tamashek) were released worldwide and gained the notice of celebrity fans including Carlos Santana, Robert Plant, Bono and the Edge of U2, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Henry Rollins, Brian Eno, and TV On The Radio. In 2005 Tinariwen received a BBC Award for World Music, and in 2008 they received Germany’s prestigious Praetorius Music Prize.
Also since 2001, the Tinariwen collective has added several younger Tuareg musicians who did not live through the military conflicts experienced by the older members but have contributed to the collective’s multi-generational evolution. New members include bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, percussionist Said Ag Ayad, guitarist Elaga Ag Hamid, guitarist Abdallah Ag Lamida, and vocalists Wonou Walet Sidati and the Walet Oumar sisters. The band’s 2009 album Imidiwan (Tamashek for “Companions”) was recorded in a mobile studio by Jean-Paul Romann in the village of Tessalit, Mali.
The Tinariwen sound is primarily guitar-driven in the style known as assouf among the Tuareg people. The Tinariwen guitar style has its roots in West African music, specifically that from the “great bend” region along the Niger River, between Timbuktu and Gao. The core elements of Tinariwen’s music are traditional Tuareg melodies and rhythms including those played on the shepherd’s flute, which is primarily a man’s instrument; and those played on a one-string fiddle known as an imzad which is played by women. The primary percussion instrument is the tindé drum which is played by women at festive occasions. Another important traditional influence is the lute known as the teherdent, which is played by the griots of the Gao and Timbuktu regions. In the late 1970s, when the founding members of Tinariwen started playing acoustic guitars, they played a traditional repertoire adapted to the western guitar.
Other regional influences include Berber music from northern Algeria, especially radical Kabyle singers like Ait Menguellet and Ferhat; the pop sounds of electrified rai music of Algeria; pop singers from Algeria like Rabah Driassa; pop groups from Morocco like Nass El Ghiwane and Lemchaheb with their lute and mandol riffs; the classical pop of Egypt; and even Bollywood music. Tinariwen was also influenced by traditional Malian musicians, the most famous of which was Ali Farka Touré. In the early years of the collective’s history, the members were also fans of bootlegged albums by western acts that had made their way to the Tuareg people, with favorites including albums by Dire Straits, Santana, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Kenny Rogers and Don Williams.
While the Tinariwen style is possibly a distant relative of blues music, via West African music, members of Tinariwen claim to have never heard actual American blues music until they began to travel internationally in 2001.
Tinariwen are currently touring and heading to the U.S. starting in September,with a string of dates booked until mid-October, including two dates in Los Angeles – one at The Hollywood Bowl, opening for Vampire Weekend and the other, about two weeks later at The Mayan with Lonnie Holley as support. Get tickets. They are hitting just about every major city in the U.S., so there is no excuse not to catch them live. Go to their website and check out the dates and venues.
In the meantime, crank this one up and get ready for the weekend.