Album Review // Tinariwen – ‘Imidiwan: Companions’

Album Review // Tinariwen   Imidiwan: Companions

Tinariwen (“empty places”) is a true amalgam of music. Thirty years ago, this group of southern Saharan nomads was forced into involuntary servitude by Muammar al-Gaddafi. The band, led by frontman Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, plays what the locals call “Tishoumaren” ( “music of the unemployed”), and they favor electric guitars over the traditional acoustic instrumentation of the region. It’s obvious that this is a blues band at heart. Perhaps not the same as Delta blues musicians, but close enough to count. The more obvious comparison is “Kulanjan” by Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate or the Robert Plant/Jimmy Page reunion album from the 90s, where a blues-like sound was appropriated while adding heavy African tribal music influences. On their 4th album, Imidiwan: Companions, Tinariwen makes ample use of Delta, Chicago and Texas stomp styles to create a sound uniquely their own.

The album was recorded in the Malian desert village of Tessalit, and while the listener may not understand the words, the emotions conveyed are obvious. The song structure is similar from track to track, often opening with a lone voice before group chanting comes in to flesh out the sound, but each track has its own personality. “Tamudjeras Assis” channels John Lee Hooker, and “Enseqi Ehad Didagh” sounds a little like Lightnin’ Hopkins . Drawing from various deeper blues rhythms, “Imazaghen N Adagh” wouldn’t sound out of place on-stage at Buddy Guy’s Legends.

Album Review // Tinariwen   Imidiwan: Companions

Though hard to fathom how a group of ex-military nomads appropriated the sounds of American blues, the similarities between them can somehow seem obvious – both sing of hardship using music to relay their emotions. Imidiwan: Companions is another strong record in a growing catalogue of excellent music from the group. Based on the band’s personal situation – they’ve been outlawed in some countries – it is amazing Tinariwen can create any music whatsoever, yet alone, this good. – CD

Tinariwen – Imidiwan: Companions (Buy – Amazon)

Tinariwen – Aman Iman: Water Is Life (Download – iTunes)

MP3: Tinariwen – Tahult In
MP3: Tinariwen – Matadjem Yinmixan

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