Formed in the southern Sahara, Grammy-winning ensemble Tinariwen has been playing its unique brand of desert blues for over thirty years. The group of former Tuareg rebels-turned-electric-guitar-wielding musicians is a sensational live act, gritty and hypnotic.
The group was founded by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib (lead guitar, vocals), Hassan Ag Touhami (guitar, vocals), and Inteyeden Ag Ableline (guitar, vocals) in Tamanrasset, southern Algeria, at the end of the 1970s. It was a period of great suffering in the desert, due to the catastrophic droughts of the early 1970s, which had decimated the animal herds and almost destroyed the Tuareg’s ancient nomadic way of life. Tinariwen began to write songs describing the pain of exile, the longing for lost homes and families, the struggle for political and cultural freedom, and the rigors of everyday life in the desert.
It was not long before the band gained global recognition and praise for their ability to candidly mix the bitter sound of spiky guitars with lyrical poetry, celebrating the sacred union between a people and their environment, all the while reflecting on painful collective circumstances. Their music became the soundtrack for a whole generation of exiled Tuareg youth, living a hand-to-mouth existence in exile in Algeria and Libya. It was not only the subject matter, but the sound that was radically different. Ibrahim transposed the traditional melodies of the Tuareg on the electric guitar, mixing them with blues, rock, pop, Berber, and Arabic influences. Tinariwen created a modern desert rock sound, whose harsh simplicity was well suited to the realities of their situation.
Tinariwen’s nomadic guitar mantras encompass the spiritual hypnotism of Tibetan chants, the bare grittiness of Malian blues, and the rebel soul of reggae . . . entirely transfixing.
Tuareg rockers Tinariwen have established their unmistakable, mesmerizing desert blues grooves, and their stage presence, shrouded in traditional robes and tagelmust turban-veils.
—Guardian (United Kingdom)