(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
The Radio Tisdas Sessions (2002), 5/10
Amassakoul/ Traveller (2004) , 6.5/10
Aman Iman/ Water is Life (2007), 5/10
Imidiwan: Companions (2009), 5/10
Tassili (2011), 6/10
Emmaar (2014), 6/10
Elwan (2017), 6/10
Amadjar (2019),6/10

Tinariwen, a desert-blues band of Tuareg nomads with electric guitars fronted by Malian singer Ibrahim Ag Alhabib (who formed the band while in exile in Algeria), were the main musicians to emerge from the first "Festival au Desert" that was held in january 2001 at Tin Essako in the Sahara of northeastern Mali. The Radio Tisdas Sessions (2002), Amassakoul/ Traveller (2004) and Aman Iman/ Water is Life (2007) documented the music they had been playing since the mid 1980s, mostly in Libya.

There is no wild tribal dance and no anguished griot cry in The Radio Tisdas Sessions (2002). There are mostly hypnotic polyrhythms and choral chanting in a lazy and languid spirit that almost sounds psychedelic, notably the lengthy opener Le Chant Des Fauves . The problem is that an entire album of this music is a quite monotonous experience, relieved by the occasional similarity to blues music (Imidiwaren) or to Native-American dances (Zin Es Gourmeden). One picks up more of an Arabic flavor when the singing gets more melismatic (Khedou Khedou) and more of a contemporary flavor when the beat gets faster (Mataraden Anexan), but mostly there is little variation between one chant and the next one.

The songs on Amassakoul/ Traveller (2004) are shorter and the beat is stronger. Amassakoul 'N' Tenere and Aldhechen Manin (the catchiest one) unleash a quacking guitar riff that borders on ska and blues-rock. The electric, rocking Oualahila Ar Tesninam doesn't even sound related to the anemic chants of the previous album. The main riff of Chet Boghassa is reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel's Mrs Robinson. The similarity with blues-rock jams is even more surprising (Eh Massina Sintadoben, think a more polite version of the Rolling Stones of Exile on Main Street). This is probably a less authetic sound, widely contaminated by Western taste: Chatma is quasi funky; Arawan is a French rap; and Assoul is even a new-age version of Tibetan monks.

At its best Aman Iman/ Water is Life (2007) offers faster and more intricate rhythms (for example, Cler Achel). In general it relies on upbeat, lively rhythm and streamlined choirs (notably in Matadjem Yinmixan and Tamatant Tilay). Besides the continuing Westernization (bastardization) of the sound, this time there is also a bit too much filler. Half of these songs simply package and repackage stereotypes.

As it often the case, the novelty went out of fashion quickly after Imidiwan: Companions (World Village, 2009) and the acoustic Tassili (2011), the album that popularized them in the USA.

They had become so famous that in 2012 guitarist Abdallah Ag Lamida was kidnapped by Islamists.

Their commercial phase continued with two "electric" albums recorded in the California desert, Emmaar (2014), featuring violinist Fats Kippler, Elwan (2017), with guests like Mark Lanegan, Alain Johannes (formerly of Queens of the Stone Age) and guitarist Matt Sweeney, and with Amadjar (2019), recorded in the African desert with female Mauritian griot Noura Mint Seymali, and then refined in studio with contributions by violinist Warren Ellis (Dirty Three), electric guitarist Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O)))) and acoustic guitarist Cass McCombs. Taqkal Tarha is unusually lively.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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