MALI HANDS MAKE TIGHT WORK
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.
OUT NOW / PAT CARTY