Desert Blues

I taught music at an international school in Switzerland for seven years, and had a lot of opportunity to catch up on my reading while taking the train. During one school outing, I settled into the New York Times and discovered a new favorite –  Tinariwen.

Tinariwen are members of a nomadic people called Tuaregs from northern Mali, exiled and living as refugees in Libya, following an armed rebellion as they sought autonomy as its own nation state.

I’m a long-time fan of international film, particularly from Africa and the Middle East, as it shows a different picture of a culture – a human picture that runs counter to the stereotypes offered by the evening news. The same goes for world music. Dressed in white robes and headscarves, some of Tinariwen’s touring crew work the guitar riffs and drones, while others add hand claps or sit cross-legged and barefoot playing a hand drum. Watching them perform, you feel both transported and connected. The Tinariwen sound is hypnotic and exotic, yet somehow very primal and familiar.

You can learn more about Tinariwen in this piece from Reverb News. Tinariwen playing guitars under the desert stars.

Tinariwen has kept up an ambitious touring schedule. They’ve performed more than once at Minneapolis’ Cedar Cultural Center. I had the thrill of seeing them at Fri-Son, a club in Fribourg, Switzerland.