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Much has been made of Ti­nari­wen’s back­ground since they be­gan to at­tract at­ten­tion out­side their na­tive Mali. Sev­eral of their mem­bers fought in the Tuareg re­bel­lion in that re­gion in the early 90s, giv­ing them a slightly higher rebel ca­chet than, say, Cold­play.

I don’t wish to make light of their sit­u­a­tion. The band were de­nounced as mak­ing the devil’s mu­sic by mil­i­tant Is­lamic groups, and founder mem­ber Ibrahim Ag Al­habib was ab­ducted and held cap­tive in 2013. But I’m go­ing to pre­sume that your grasp of the Ta­masheq lan­guage is as non-ex­is­tent as mine, so let’s con­cen­trate on the mu­sic, and leave the lyri­cal con­tent to the more qual­i­fied.

It ranges from slow, mourn­ful blues like ‘It­tus’, which shares a di­rect line back (or should that be for­ward?) to Muddy Wa­ters’ ‘Still A Fool’, through un­du­lat­ing grooves with a pleas­ing bang of camp­fire (lead sin­gle ‘Ténéré Tàqqàl’), to tindé drum and bass-driven gui­tar wig outs like ‘Ti­wàyyen’ and ‘Sas­tanàqqàm’ (imag­ine rhyth­mic oddballs Ali Farka Toure, John Lee Hooker and Keith Richards fight­ing over a chord se­quence in a small room). Through­out El­wan, the rhythms are played with such flair and the at­mos­phere is so evocative, that it’s easy to see why Ti­nari­wen have re­ceived heavy­weight en­dorse­ments from the likes of Robert Plant and Da­mon Al­barn.

A spe­cial hats-off is also due to en­gi­neer An­drew Schepps

(RHCP, Jay Z) for a fan­tas­tic sound­ing record, which is in­vested with such hyp­notic power that, when the suit­ably sand-blasted Mark Lane­gan shows up on ‘Nàn­nu­flày’, the sound of the

English lan­guage is al­most jar­ring. The Real Folk Blues. Highly rec­om­mended.


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