Uni­ver­sal truths wrapped in Sa­ha­ran melodies

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music - Michael Rofe

THE Sa­hara is the latest part of the globe to be dis­cov­ered by the world mu­sic com­mu­nity. The an­nual Fes­ti­val of the Desert at Es­sakane near Tim­buktu has be­come a must for dis­cern­ing mu­sic afi­ciona­dos. Tar­tit, Etran Fi­natawa and Ti­nari­wen are three Tuareg groups that have gained an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence. The mem­bers of Ti­nari­wen have played to­gether for more than 20 years. First as sol­diers, then as a mu­si­cal co- oper­a­tive, they have been in­te­gral to the strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence of the Tuareg or Kel Ta­mashek pop­u­la­tion of the Sa­hara re­gion that cov­ers parts of Mali, Niger, Libya and Al­ge­ria. In­flu­enced by the rock mu­sic they heard on ra­dio, their mu­sic was re­leased on cas­sette and con­tained mes­sages of ex­ile, hope and lib­er­a­tion and as a re­sult was some­times pro­scribed for be­ing too po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive. In 2000, the eclec­tic French band Lojo and gui­tarist and pro­ducer Justin Adams, of Jah Wob­ble and Robert Plant fame, went to Mali to record them. The re­sult was Ra­dio Tis­das Ses­sions . A sec­ond disc, Amas­sak­oul , fol­lowed in 2004 and by this time Ti­nari­wen were play­ing at Wo­mad fes­ti­vals and tour­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally. Now they have been em­braced by a ma­jor record la­bel, given a mas­sive pub­lic­ity push and will be sup­port­ing the Rolling Stones on their latest tour. Aman Iman means wa­ter is life, and Adams’s sym­pa­thetic pro­duc­tion and en­gi­neer­ing by Ben Find­lay give this disc a more pol­ished sound than its pre­de­ces­sors.

At least five elec­tric gui­tars in­ter­twine with voices and hand­claps. Twelve songs tell of their stark re­al­ity, from the desert wan­der­ings and ex­ile of Cler Achel and the strug­gles of the wars in Soix­ante Trois to the lin­ger­ing As­souf that speaks of a long­ing for space: ‘‘ The world sleeps and I count the stars.’’

Al­though ro­man­ti­cised in some quar­ters, Ti­nari­wen’s mu­sic from a harsh world has uni­ver­sal mean­ing.

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