Tinariwen on their new album, bootlegged Zeppelin tapes, and more
The Grammy-Award winning Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali come on a two-city tour of India.
When musician Ibrahim Ag Alhabib was four years old he saw his father, a Tuareg rebel, being executed during an uprising. Fashioning a guitar from a tin can, a stick and a wire, he turned to music. In the late 70s, after being through full military training in Libya, he formed what is today known as the collective Tinariwen.
Tinariwen play the assouf style of music. Held together by the guitar, the tunes have roots in West Africa. “We write songs about the everyday life and the struggles the Tuareg people are facing. We try to do it in a poetic way. Many things that we talk about are quite universal, everyone could easily relate to them,” says Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni, guitarist.
While the initial influence was only of traditional Tuareg music: imzad and tinde and traditional Arabic music, Western influences also creeped in later. “We used to listen to psychedelic rock like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin on bootleg tapes in the early ‘90s,” reminisces Abdallah.
In 1990 the Tuareg people of Mali revolted against the government, and a few members of Tinariwen participated as rebel fighters. Even though some of the younger and newer members of the collective haven’t shared the experiences that the original collective went through, it does not affect their style.
“In Tinariwen, new members are always welcomed as long as they share our vision. They might not have the exact same background but it allows us to share some musical ideas and stay fresh in our sound,” Abdallah says, adding, “Thanks to our popularity, we are able to speak out for our people. We don’t want to get into politics, we only want to spread a message of peace.”
The new album, Elwan, which means elephants, is a metaphor for the people and organisations that harm the Sahara and slow down its development: technocrats, corrupted politicians and police.
The band feels it is a great honour to have the opportunity to play in India, and are very excited. When suggested a collaboration with some Indian folk artistes, Abdallah says, “We don’t really know much about Indian music but hopefully we’ll discover some good music from here! That’s an interesting idea, though.”
November 9, 8 pm. At the Humming Tree, Indira Nagar. Tickets (Rs 2,950) on insider.in