After finding ten incredibly unique artists from ten different countries for the Global Music Project, I think that a pattern is really starting to emerge. That pattern being that the more third-world the country, the better the music and the less time it takes to find a group worth writing about. For instance, yesterday I spent all of about two hours scouring artists of damn near every genre in Australia and although I came across some interesting music, I didn’t find anything that I felt comfortable recommending. Today it only took about 10 minutes before I found a great group from Mali called Tinariwen.
The overarching theme of their music is mostly the “World music” vibe that you would expect from a group from the deserts of Africa. Their songs range from chugging African rhythms as found on “Cler Achel ” to quiet and contemplative as found on their song entitled “Izarharh Tenere.” However, a closer listen reveals a diverse set of influences and artistic direction. In between traditional African instruments and vocal stylings, one can also find Santana-like guitar tones and spaced-out Hendrix-style lead lines as exemplified on “Assouf.”
As far as I can tell, the majority of the lyrics are sung in French, as it is the national language of Mali. Throughout Tinariwen’s music, vocalist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib weaves a sorrowful tale of a life of struggle and political strife. According to the band’s biography, Ibrahim’s father was killed by the Malian army which forced him into years of exile until he later found a love for music. As quoted from a previous interview, Alhabib describes his lyrics as being “about [his] love for the desert” and the group’s “desire for peace and prosperity.” Although translated versions of Tinarimen’s music are available on YouTube, it’s impossible to escape the emotion in Ibrahim’s voice regardless of whether or not you understand the lyrics.
Despite this being my first time hearing of them, Tinariwen seem to be making quite a name for themselves lately through touring and traditional media outlets. They are currently in the midst of a European tour and also took the stage at the iTunes Live Festival in London this past July. They are currently signed to UK-based indie label Independiente and have just released a new record entitled “Imidiwan: Companions.”
You can find their music on the Myspace page and here is an Al Jazeera documentary about Tinariwen.