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'!
I caught Tinariwen on Jules Holland's 'Later', completely by chance and was immediately intrigued. I'm fairly blinkered and not in any way a world music fan but they were completely riveting, I had to go and buy the CD next day from a World Music shop a few miles away. Paid 50% more than I could have got it for here, but it is more than worth it's cover price, absolutely astounding and captivating music. Their website has a couple of clips to give you a taste of what they can do. Words can't do them justice.
The inlay card says these Malinese travelling musicians put down theirtraditional Toureg instruments and picked up the electric guitar in the80s and began a revolution. But producing an album like this in 2003 hasnot meant they have lost any of their soul. This album is for any fan ofupbeat world music and is impossible to put down. If you're into NorthAfrican music of any sort, from the Algerian master Abdelli or southernSpanish big guns Radio Tarifa, you need to get into Tinariwen. From thevery beginning of this album you realise these guys know their stuff andlove the electric guitar. It might sound weird on paper (nomadic Africansinging with funky guitars) but this merge has an obvious quality andinterest right from the start of the CD. The album is well balanced withsoulful explosions that you would imagine is the best possible music tocruise around the Sahara with in a jeep or something, and some delicateslower numbers that reach into the hearts of these fascinating andintelligent musicians. Buy this CD and your friends will say what is thisgreat music, I've heard nothing like it before?
This is perhaps one of the ironies of the contemporary global economy - I can bemoan the fact that globalisation means that the high street in Beijing is beginning to look remarkably like the high street in Manhattan or London, yet I can also sit back and appreciate that a Touareg group can maintain their cultural autonomy and make music which I, a Scotsman, can enjoy. There is something wonderfully sparse and pure about this music. The Touareg are a nomadic people - traditionally, they carry as little as they need ... and if you can pack stories and songs into your head, so much the better. Of course, Tinariwen have picked up influences from near and far - culture is never static. Their sound will go on to influence others around the globe. But what comes across forcibly in their music is pride. "Amassakoul" is their second album, more organised and orchestrated than their "Radio Tisdas Sessions". Culture does not stand still, and young musicians who had been forced into camps because of the border wars erupting in their traditional lands have transformed the electric guitar into a 'traditional' Touareg instrument. It remains 'traditional' in the sense that it is there to support and enhance the human voice, to underpin the telling of a story or narration of an emotion. But at times it is given an opportunity to make its own statements. The rhythms are largely sustained by the human voice, the chorus echoing the refrain of the lead singer. They sound more restrained than Western rhythms - the beat is not so intrusive, though it remains hypnotic. Apparently, sand dunes sing - as they shift in the wind they can emit a moan or a drumming rhythm. The Tinariwen sound is humanistic, not mechanically syncopated. These are rhythms which are timeless yet which are self-evidently of a new century. The CD comes with a net little booklet (in English and French) which translates the words and gives you a better insight into the songs. Tinariwen talk about the loneliness and beauty of the desert, of the reassurance of being free to roam and to know your spirit cannot be contained or constrained. They sing of love and pain, they sing and play with a passion which is universally recognisable. Recent winners of a BBC world music competition, this is an outstanding piece of musicianship which will give your ears a well earned rest from much of the packaged and trivial music foisted upon us in the West.
Tinariwen produce classical visceral guitar blues sounds that have your body swaying and head nodding in synch with the music. Their creative vocals and powerful modern guitars integrate well with the traditional percussion and chanting that often accompanies a piece. Their music expresses strong emotions and deep feelings of a nomadic tribe which has undergone many changes in modern times often to the detriment of their ancient lifestyle ... The true spirit of this desert tribe comes alive in their heartfelt vocals which have a lyrical poetic quality, as translated in the liner notes. The music is honest and gutsy ... at times reminscent of the Mississippi and Chicago blues styles but truly in a category by themselves. Anyone who loves the blues will want to own this CD. Traditional instruments often accompany the powerful gut-wrenching guitar music. The music hooks the listener's emotions creating an exotic aura that mixes with a distant familiarity. It is timeless and ethereal ... evoking an awesome sense of wonder. Erika Borsos (bakonyvilla)
I have just been lent this CD from a friend and it has been a revelation to me. Brilliant rock and blues riffs merge with all the traditional Saharan influences to produce something very catchy and memrorable. Wonderful stuff. Loved it!
What's to say.these guys are just so staggeringly cool...if you like Blues..have a hankering for flowing white desert robes and open fires under the desert night sky...these are the guys that have encapsulated it all.
Loved the hypnotic rolling riffs, the gravel rough lead vocal and the smooth as silk backing harmonies. For me the album has a John Lee Hooker atmosphere about it, although the sound is totally Middle Eastern. Can't compare it to the other albums, I haven't heard them. But on the strength of this one, I shall be buying them soon. Recommeded.