photo by Gerhard Eichler

photo by Gerhard Eichler

I’ve been completely remiss in covering this amazing show. Even at this late date, I must say a few words about the Malian Tuareg-Berber musicians, Tinariwen, who performed at the Paradise Rock Club a few weeks ago. I had first become interested in Tinariwen after hearing about the recent conflict in Mali. I read a little about their history and the strong musical heritage in that region of the world. Through the struggle and perseverance of a people trying to preserve their roots, it is a culture that has inspired musicians such as Ali Farka Touré and Amadou & Mariam. Tinariwen was formed in Libyan refugee camps after the members had fled their war-torn homeland of Mali. Their sound, while strongly influenced by the guitar-based rock of Western artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana, has deep roots in Malian traditional music.

photo by Gerhard Eichler

photo by Gerhard Eichler

At the Paradise, performing in their traditional dress of the Sahara Desert area of Mali and singing in the Tamashek language of the region, Tinariwen very quickly brought the audience under their spell. The instrumentation was simple—acoustic and electric guitars, bass, a single African drum and occasional flute. But the intricate weaving of music and vocals was deeply emotional and absolutely hypnotic. From the truly phenomenal guitar playing to the trance inducing drumming and audience clapping, and then the chant-like vocals, this was a religious experience of epic proportions. The singing is poignant in their native language, particularly if you’re aware of the heartfelt lyrics that are being sung. What struck me especially, knowing of their origins in refugee and military training camps in Libya and Algeria, is how incredibly soulful and, well, loving these guys were. They are so humble, so deeply appreciative of their audience, and put across such a feeling of peacefulness and warmth, that I was completely blown away. They had a deeply spiritual vibe and went off on such astonishing ‘space jams,’ it was like The Grateful Dead took a long trip through the Sahara Desert. Totally captivating. You do not miss these guys when they (hopefully) come around again.

photo by Gerhard Eichler

photo by Gerhard Eichler

The Boston-based Atlas Soul, with their North African funk/jazz/rock/hip-hop, singing in multiple languages, were the perfect support for Tinariwen. They were also wonderful.

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