A shot from the Sahel - Page 2

Tinariwen's songs of struggle

They weave a sound web linking traditional instrumentation (like the tehardant, or lute), Maghrebi music (think Nass el Ghiwane), James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and even rap ("Arawan" on Amassakoul) — superbad, indeed.

The droning, hallucinatory blues of the Blue Men of the Ténéré may have increasingly wowed exogamous audiences since the acclaim Tinariwen's Kel Tamasheq musicians received from jamming with Robert Plant at the 2003 Festival in the Desert, but there lies a deep source of crisis beneath the band's international success. Recorded in Bamako, Aman Iman's "Soixante Trois" captures guitarist-singer Ibrahim ag Alhabib recalling the brutally suppressed 1963 Imazighen rebellion against the government of newly independent Mali. Tinariwen's spare sound brings great joy on purely aesthetic grounds, the masterful harnessing of rolling electricity and overlapping ululation indelibly making a mark on the diasporic continuum stretching from Mali's Ali Farka Touré to Mississippi's Otha Turner and back again.

Yet it must never be forgotten that the mysteries of Al Baraka, the hardships of desert life and the hardcore realities of war, inform these songs, and such has been the lot of the aboriginal peoples of Tamazgha from the time of Roman and Islamic imperial incursions onto the North African sands up through current attempts to further disenfranchise the Imazighen in order to appropriate their oil-rich ancestral lands. Aman Iman's very title — meaning "water is life" — refers not merely to the primal law of the desert but also to the very real, enduring crisis afflicting the region's ecology and society. As you rightly enjoy Tinariwen on tour, please remember and act on the fact that for the headliners, the fight continues on every front. *


Sun/4, 7 p.m., $20–$55

Palace of Fine Arts theatre

3301 Lyon, SF



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