If I could understand what Tinariwen was saying I’m sure it would be insightful, knowledgeable, and rife with personal experience, heartache, pain, love, and wonder. However, that is not a possibility. It is sung in Tamashek.
If you’ve read anything I’ve posted then you know I like my words. I like my metaphors. I like my parenthesis. And I like my hyphens. Those things are great but have a time and a place.
There is no reason to color Tinariwen. Their life did that for them and they write themselves.
At four years old, creator of Tinariwen, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib was witness to his fathers execution. His father was a Tuareg rebel during a 1963 uprising in Mali. Ibrahim’s first musical stylings came from watching a western in which a cowboy played a guitar. Inspired, he built his own out of a tin can, a stick, and some bicycle brake wire and started out playing old Tuareg and modern Arabic pop songs.
In a Tuareg rebel community the late 70’s he explored with chaabi protest music, Algerian pop, and the more familiar sounds of Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Santana, Dire Straits, Hendrix, Kenny Rogers, and Bob Marley. The band was formed with the intention of playing at weddings and parties. They had no name but were reffered to as Kel Tinariwen which translates to “The Desert Boys.”
Then, in 1980 Muammar al-Gaddafi put out a decree inviting all young Tuareg men to recieve military training to further his goals of forming a Saharan regiment. Ibrahim and some members joined. It was here that he met future band members and offcially became Tinariwen. They set out with a single mission statement. They would record music for free as long as you supplied the blank tape cassette. Then, in a way foreign to us in our internet age they went “viral.” People were trading their tapes throughout the Sahara region.
Some time later, for the first time in 26 years, after a Tuareg revolt, a peace accord was reached and the musicians/rebel fighters were able to focus simply on music.
By chance two band members met French group Lo’Jo. Not to long later Parts of Tinariwen traveled to France to perform with Lo’Jo. Then they formed a music festival in the Sarahan desert. The festival brought lots of attention which brought more festivals which bought studio time. Studio time brought a debut album and the rest is history as they say. Since then Tinariwen has played over 700 concerts all over the world. Including Glastonbury and Coachella. They are loved by Carlos Santana, Robert Plant, U2, Thom Yorke, Brian Eno, Henry Rollins, TV On The Radio and many others.
Since 2001 the Tinariwen collective has added several younger Taureg musicians who have not had to live through military conflicts. But I’m pretty sure their stories are just as riveting and impossible for me to understand.
“Tenere Taqqim Tossam” off their 9-29-11 release.