screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Tag: Mali

Tinariwen Live in Paris Celebration with Legendary Singer Lalla Badi

Tinariwen, gifted Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali, are magical. I first saw them performing at the Paradise Rock Club in 2012, and was entranced. In 2014, they released Emmaar, a remarkable album. They’re back with a new recording this year, just released, called Live in Paris. It’s a documentation of one of their haunting live performances, made even more special thanks to their guest vocalist, the legendary Lalla Badi. Just on their own, Tinariwen is something very special. With this incredible fellow Tuareg musician, “grand dame” of Tamasheq culture and revered tindé master, the music is elevated to an even more reverent, sacred state. Tindé is both an instrument (a mortar covered with taut goatskin) played only by women and a special poetic repertoire that is sung during ceremonies and special occasions. The result of this pairing of extraordinary musicians is completely mesmerizing.

The concert took place on December 13, 2014 in Paris. This spellbinding musical prayer spoken by guitar and tindé is not typically heard by an audience outside of Malian culture. It is usually the type of music one only experiences while sitting around a fire in the southern Algerian desert or at a private home in northern Mali. Lalla Badi’s presence speaks of the strength and freedom of Tuareg women, and the music brings together vastly different cultures in spiritual communion.

This wonderful recording is more than just a celebration of the music. In the 1970s, Lalla Badi because a guiding force and mentor to the Tuareg people, both because of her commitment to their cause and her mastery of this musical tradition. As the Tuareg left northern Mali, fleeing droughts and repression and migrating to Libya to find a better life for themselves, she took in the ishumars (unemployed vagrants). It was in Algeria, during their long journey, that she became like a mother to them, like a sister and most certainly a shining beacon illuminating the way toward their future. It was at this time that founding members of Tinariwen Ibrahim ag Alhabib, Hassan ag Touhami and Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni began playing guitar and creating their own unique style of performance. This concert was an enticing merging of old and new.

Experience the magic of these old, old souls.

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Emmaar, Tinariwen’s Return to the Desert

[For the abridged version of this article, see Ryan’s Smashing Life]

The past few years have been difficult for the people of Mali. There was a devastating drought and armed conflicts which made the country unsettled for the long-suffering population. There were military coups, people were out of work and farmers were unable to plant their crops and raise livestock. Poor harvests continued into 2013, while road conditions and security issues hindered relief efforts. Aid groups warned of a serious food crisis with as many as three million people at risk. There continues to be political instability, even after French troops successfully ousted Islamic jihadists who had taken over Northern Mali and were trying to impose sharia law.

That isn’t your typical album review introduction, but then again, North African Tuareg band Tinariwen isn’t your typical band. They were founded in the Tuareg camps in Libya in the 1980s, where these nomadic people had relocated. They were looking for work and to rebuild their lives after fleeing their Saharan homeland. Truth is, the Tuareg have been continuously moved from places they tried to call home since the late 1960s. They traveled through Mali, Algeria, Libya, Chad, Mauritania and Niger. In all of these regions, they were considered refugees. They were (and continue to be) a people without a home. It is a complicated story.

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Tinariwen returning in 2014 with a new album (Emmaar) and tour!

©Marie Planeille

©Marie Planeille

How wonderful to see that the hypnotic, “old soul” guitar-driven magic of Tinariwen will once again grace our shores. They have a new album called Emmaar coming out February 11, with a North American tour planned for February and March. This new release will be the follow-up to their Grammy award-winning 2011 album Tassili, which was recorded in a tent in the Algerian desert. This time around, due to continuing political tensions and instability in their homeland of Mali, they recorded in a home studio located in a U.S. desert — Joshua Tree, California. The music features their trademark powerful electric guitar sound and traditional drumming, and was recorded in a natural live setting, with all the musicians performing in one room together. The recording features original members from the group’s beginnings in the 1980s (vocalists and guitarists Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni, and Alhassane Ag Touhami) and newer members from the 1990s (multi-instrumentalist Eyadou Ag Leche, guitarist Elaga Ag Hamid, and percussionist Said Ag Ayad). They also invited some American artists to join them — Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, Matt Sweeney from Chavez, Nashville fiddler Fats Kaplin, and poet Saul Williams. Good heavens. I can’t wait to hear this. For now, here’s a small taste — the official video for “Toumast Tincha.”

To help with the costs of touring, Tinariwen have a crowdsourcing campaign at Microcultures. Donate some funds and support their amazing music and their vision. In return, there’s all sorts of great items such as the upcoming CD, vinyl, autographs, show tickets and t-shirts, all the way up to an autographed guitar or an acoustic performance in your home! Give what you can. The France-based Microcultures is “an indie production company that offers preorders and subscriptions in order to fund creative projects, pays artists better, and deliver awesome rewards.”

I can’t recommend Tinariwen’s music and live show highly enough. I had the great honor of seeing these stellar musicians the last time they were at the Paradise Rock Club, and they were absolutely astonishing. The Boston show is again at the Paradise on Tuesday, March 25. See their official site for all the tour dates. To read about this group’s fascinating history, see the article I wrote about them last year.

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Malian Blues Comes to the Paradise Rock Club Saturday Night… Tinariwen.

Photo: Thomas Dorn

Photo: Thomas Dorn

Tinariwen with Atlas Soul
In Association with World Music/CRASHarts
Saturday, October 13, at the Paradise Rock Club
Doors at 8 PM | 18+ | Advance Box Office Price $20 (@ the Paradise) or ticketmaster

Tinariwen, comprised of Tuareg-Berber musicians who come from the Sahara Desert region of Northern Mali, are not your typical indie rock band. Though truth is, they are probably the ultimate indie rock band. With their roots in a war-ravaged part of the world, and the conditions and challenges they have had to overcome, they take the “DIY” concept to an extreme level. Their music alone, without the historical and biographical context, is an emotionally stirring blend of guitar rock, American blues and traditional South African folk music, with lyrics that speak of the struggles of their people and their fight for independence and freedom. However, their personal story is tightly woven into their music, which is what gives it such depth of spirit. Their heritage is what makes them who they are, and it is what guides their musical vision. You cannot separate one from the other. At a time when Mali is once again in the news, as al Qaeda fighters are taking over the country, killing innocent civilians, destroying sacred sites, and imposing Sharia Law, Tinariwen is on tour. Hopefully people will not only hear the wonderful music these gifted musicians create, but will also hear their message.

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