Tinariwen (pronounced: t-i-nàriw-en) means “deserts” in Tamasheq language of Tuareg. It’s also a name of the band of musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. Tinariwen remains a voice of political and social conscience in the southern Sahara. They are idealized by a whole generation of young Touareg living in exile in Algeria and Libya. In the last 10 years Tinariwen has become increasingly popular in Europe and USA. Tinariwe’s lyrics tell the stories of the suffering and exile of their people, the semi-nomadic Kel Tamashek of the southern Sahara, and about the beauty of their desert home.
Tinariwen’s latest CD, Imidiwan: Companions, which came out in June 2009 was recorded on a portable studio equipment powered by an electric generator in various Malian village locations. It presents a mix of North African rhythms and a melodic richness of acoustic and electric sounds that often echos blues and even rock music; any Western rock music fan familiar with Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Hendrix will find some of the flicks comfortably familiar. The relentless and “unpolished” sound that Tinariwen delivers is more typical for a casual live performance, rather than for a typical “polished” studio recording, and adds to the honesty of their social and political message. Tinariwen’s multi-layered melodic presentation offers an unending musical feast to any careful listener. It’s only left to the imagination how much more main-stream and influential the Tinariwen would be in the West without the inherent language barrier their lyrics offer.
Tinariwen just keep on keepin’ on, relentless and brilliant as the Saharan sun.The Guardian (UK)
The Imidiwan: Companions also won the 2009 Uncut Music Award for being “the most inspiring and richly rewarding album of the last 12 months”.
…the nearest thing the modern world provides to a real blues feel.The Daily Telegraph (UK)
The group’s founder, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib (sitting front right on the photo), grew up in refugee camps in the deserts of southern Algeria. The political credentials of the group are well documented by the fact that the group’s founding member is said to have led armed rebels against Mali’s government. In the early 1960s, Mali threw off the yoke of French colonial rule and became an independent country, ruled from the capital Bamako. A thousand miles away in the northern desert regions, the nomadic Touareg or Kel Tamashek (‘The Tamashek speaking people’) had trouble recognizing the legitimacy of their new rulers or accepting their socialist laws and taxes, their alien ways and demands. In 1963 there was a Tuareg uprising which was brutally suppressed by the Malian army. In 1964, Ibrahim’s father was murdered by the Malian solders, reportedly for aiding rebels fighting against the government, and Ibrahim family’s possessions were destroyed and confiscated. Ibrahim, now forty-eight, eventually ended in Algeria where he started playing music.
I dreamed of avenging my father. I found solace playing guitars I made from sticks and oil cans.Ibrahim Ag Alhabib
Tinariwen just completed its February 2010 tour of the five USA states with two performances in New York; the group performed in March in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec, Canada. New York’s fans will have opportunity to appreciate Tinariwen again on June 26th, 2010, during the Central Park Summerstage.
The Tinariwen’s tour info and news can be found on their website – move mouse over page capture below to see their current RSS.
Written by Mark Bajkowski.
Mark, born in Poland, is a Jack of all trades, master of none, who lives in New York since 1979. Mark has an unusually wide range of interests and is known to relate well to the people half of his age. Since his early childhood, he felt a curious relation to Africa, which unavoidably brings up the controversial subject of multiple-life experiences.