BLUES / BLUES ROCK / Tinariwen

Aman Iman – TINARIWEN – 2007

All, it seems, is not kosher with the world. We are fed music that is primarily sex/money/fame oriented, or emo/despair oriented. Then there is the category of anti-war salubriousness, the preserve of the Bob Geldofs and Bonos and Dylans of the world. That is very problematic, isn’t it? After all, most of that music is from the view-point of a sympathetic western (often rich, white, male) standpoint. What about the music from the ground? When was the last time you heard music from people in Darfur reflected in the mainstream? Or the New Orleans musicians? Or indeed, music from the Afghans and Iraqis being hammered into the desert sand? You don’t. And that is precisely where Tinariwen come in.

Yup, that’s how they perform on stage.


Tinariwen. Finally, musicians with a real story to tell. Ibrahim Ag Alhabib grew up in the political strife of Mali in West Africa, made his first guitar himself, listening to fuzzy radio transmissions of Led Zep and Hendrix. Slowly but surely, he adapted Tuareg tribal melodies to his guitar and started rising in fame as the the only authentic voice of the forgotten ‘ishumar’ generation, a claim helped along in no small part by their recruitment into Colonel Gaddafi’s militia. Compelling, isn’t it? It is, but I sound a bit like a journalist. A hack. And therein lies the problem; these guys were often pigeonholed into the nauseatingly try-hard sounding category of “guns ‘n guitars” by journalists.

‘Scuse me, while puke on by.

So, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give all of that a collosal FU and review the music on its merits.

Right, so what do I think of this stuff? Its all hypnotic. Very, very hypnotic. It’s the sort of raw music that will make you slow dance, complete with twisting hand gestures around a bonfire. The lyrics supposedly talk of pain, love of the desert sand and political uprising. But I don’t understand that language. I hear the desert wind, slow sensual sex and coming back from war. What I do wonder is, where is this coming from?

Guitar shred Nazis will tell you it’s inaccurate picking, string noise and god knows what else. But they are talking horse-shit.

It’s the rawness. Its all very compelling. Guitar shred Nazis will tell you it’s inaccurate picking, string noise and god knows what else. But they are talking horse-shit. In this context it works beautifully. It’s very orchestral, with some surprisingly Indian sounding rhythms, hypnotic dance-around-a-bonfire grooves and the aforementioned bluesy guitars bound together by plucky bass playing. Those already in the know about Tinariwen, will know about the ‘raw, bluesy guitars’, and probably connect it to the Hendrixes of the world. But give pause. If blues can indeed be traced back ancestrally to the African heartland, this will actually be the origin of the blues rather than derivative of it. Combing that with the Indian sounding rhythms, and we could very well be dealing the mid point of the west and the east.

Upside-down bedouin bass playing. Coolest in the world!

So which songs are the best? Um, well, the music is very consistent. But anyway, try “Assouf”, the gloriously sparse “Ikyadarh Dim”, the vaguely Hendrixy “Toumast” and “Cler Achel” for a start. But don’t go without hearing it all. This sounds very right.

-El Bajista


More BLUESY stuff HERE.


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