You know what they say about art being born out of suffering - well, here you are!
From the southern reaches of the Sahara Desert (in Mali), from among the nomadic Tuareg tribes, a band of poets and minstrels have put down their guns and picked up electric guitars. And have poured the anguish and suffering of their people into their poetry and music. The result is Tinariwen.
A few years ago, I saw Tinariwen playing on Jules Holland's show and was dumbstruck! I'm afraid all the other guests on the show were instantly erased from my mind as these wonderful sounds and rythms swept into my ears. As soon as I possibly could, I went to my local music shop to order anything I could find by the group. And when Amassakoul arrived a week later, I was entranced (and continue to be so).
For anyone who loves guitar music and funky rythms, Tinariwen pushes all the right buttons. And if you find that you like art that you know has been born out of great hardship (such as the blues, which sprang from grinding rural poverty and social deprivation, or the poetry from the blood and mud of the trenches), then you will find that this music has an integrity born out of drought and war and displacement.
Speaking personally, I have always loved raw, stark, unadulterated guitar music (which is why I love the blues - esp from the early exponents of the genre, like Leadbelly and Robert Johnson), and therefore really appreciate the music of this group. Whether its my imagination or not, this music definitely seems to communicate something of the mystery and beauty of the desert. And the combination of male and female voices adds to the sense of a whole people, dispossessed and driven from their homes. As already stated, the rythms are marvellous, with much of the rythm section being comprised of hand-clapping (which is a revelation!).
There is also a complete absence of the ego, self-indulgence and commercialism prevalent in so much Western culture (supergroups, boy-bands, supermodels, R&B divas, tabloid celebrities, pontificating elder rock stars etc etc). A blessed relief.
Really a wonderful CD that gets played often and has favourably impressed numerous friends and acquaintances. The sleeve notes provide translations of the poetry (so much more than mere lyrics), and the fantastic photos reveal a wild-and-beautiful-looking desert people from an utterly different world to the one in which I live (materially wealthy and spiritually impoverished).
Finally, if what I've already written has not provided sufficient incentive to buy this album, then perhaps you might be swayed by the understanding that the royalties will be going to people who sorely need the money and who may have no other means of acquiring hard currency. Much better than going to some faceless corporation or pampered 'popstar'!