Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tales From The Malian Sahara

Words by Theodora Wakeley. Tinariwen played Koko, London on 25/10/09.

"World music" is seemingly a dirty couple of words at my university campus judging by the sheer difficulty I had in persuading anyone to come with me to see Tinariwen at Koko. I ventured alone though on a wild London night (I like to think) and saw what could possibly be my favourite gig of the year so far in terms of atmosphere, uninhibited enjoyment, and pure organic music-making.

Tinariwen cannot be fully explained without their comprehensive back-story. However it is a long and complicated one so look up Andy Morgan’s brilliant biography for that. I will merely say they are a group of former African rebels, from the far-flung reaches of the Malian Sahara, who decided to portray their anguishes and the beauty of their desert home through the power of music. Despite the language barrier the emotion is truly felt as they sing songs from their latest album Companions, mixing it up with a traditional Touareg folk-song and ending on the truly stunning Cler Achel, the highest point on their defining album Aman Iman.

The most remarkable thing about these guys though is their stage presence. They dance constantly, interact with the audience, and I swear the performer on the left, all in white with only his eyes on show, is laughing and smiling the whole way through. The lead vocalist and guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, looking almost god-like, has to also be up there with the greatest rock front-men. He only arrives half-way through the set yet the cheers that greet him prove his stature.

Tinariwen are hardly undiscovered. They’ve been around for years and are extremely popular, yet a younger student generation has yet to embrace them. It’s not actually world music, its rock music of the highest quality.

[MYSPACE] Check out Tinariwen on myspace.
[WEB] Find out more about Tinariwen on their site.
[SPOTIFY] Tinariwen - Amassakoul