Tinariwen, with dj support from Keith Slater (Boiling Point), Norwich Arts Centre, 26 August 2014
Tinariwen are a band I first came across about 10-12 years ago. I heard the Radio Tisdas Sessions and was instantly hooked and fascinated. The loping rhythms, so evocative of camel trains in the Sahara, and the space, cut with sharp electric guitars had a powerful effect on me and led to an enduring love of Saharan Blues and Tuareg music. Andy Kershaw once described them as a Saharan Clash, and I can totally see that comparison. Musically different but with that cutting edge to their songs. Tinariwen sing in Tamashek but even without understanding the words one can feel the passion, energy and intensity of the songs.
A Tuareg band formed in Mali around 1979, they have been a political voice for their people and culture, indeed in 2012 Tinariwen were targetted after a Tuareg rebellion in their native northern Mali, the band all evaded capture apart Abdallah Ag Lamida who was captured whilst trying to rescue his beloved guitars. He was released a few weeks later. Their home region became the unrecognised state of Azawad, the flag of which was proudly worn on the guitar strap of bass player Eyadou Ag Leche.
Their most recent album, the excellent Emmaar, was recorded in the US but for this tour lead vocalist and founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib remained in Mali to attend family issues relating to the current political crisis there (source: WikiPedia) which obviously explains his absence from the Norwich gig line up tonight, his place being taken by Yad Abderrahmane.
There’s always a danger of anti-climax when one has waited so long to see a favourite band, to cap it all in my own city and my favourite venue. Tinariwen did not disappoint however. After a warm-up set of great tunes by Keith Slater, Tinariwen took to the stage in front of a packed, sold out NAC to heartfelt welcoming and respectful applause and launched into a superb 20 song set, playing for close to two hours. The songs were in turn hypnotic and mesmerising, uplifting, and always captivating. Highly evocative too, in their Tuareg robes, with some glorious repetition, pounding percussion, one could almost smell the desert sands. Playing as a six piece, and in traditional attire they looked and sounded wonderful. Language was no barrier, limited to “OK?” and “Thank you” etc. we all still communicated through the beautiful medium of music, dance, and sincere appreciation. The audience would have loved them to play all night and tried desperately for a second encore but by then the band had given everything and it was just about closing time. A very special and memorable gig.
Many thanks to Tinariwen and Norwich Arts centre
words and photos, richard shashamane 2014 – photos not to be used without permission