(Pop Noire); World Music

By ​Phil ​Bennett

A loose collective of Tuareg musicians from Mali, Tinariwen’s dramatic history and evolution from political refugees to festival-filling Grammy award recipients is as fascinating as the amazing music they create.

Formed by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib in the seventies, the group sprang from a clutch of Tuareg exiles whose musical interests lay somewhere between Algerian rai, traditional Tuareg rhythms and rhymes, and Jimi Hendrix.

As the eighties rolled by, the band’s activities were curtailed twice when they swapped instruments for weapons, firstly as part of Gaddafi’s army and then as part of the Tuareg rebel movement in Libya.

It was here that the bulk of the outfit that exists today was formed, as they set about spreading the message of the plight of their people, building a studio and freely recording for anyone who supplied a blank cassette in an early version of today’s file sharing practice.

The music they make is haunting, ethereal and windswept as their centuries-old traditional motifs are pushed forward with electric guitars and pulled back into the past with their desert-drenched melodies and tinde drums.

At times quite blues flavoured along the lines of John Lee Hooker, who generally eschewed the traditional 12 bar pattern for a repetitive riff cycle, Tinariwen’s music is trance-like and hypnotic, shimmering like a desert horizon.

Soul stirring stuff.

​Phil ​Bennett

Musician, actor, singer, music reviewer, Phil’s interests cover a lot of bases and this is reflected in the music he writes about. From blues to soul, ambient to electronic, Phil writes about artists he feels are interesting, true to their craft and worthy of your ears.