When you hear someone use the term "world music", you retch, right? Or if not that, then you feel a little bit sick inside, like something died, or someone just trod over your grave... right? I can dig that. I do as well. Especially when you remember those WOMAD-sponsored abominations that have been afflicting us for a good few years now. Afro-Celt Soundsystem, anyone?
Luckily there's a few exceptions around and Tinariwen is one of those. You've probably already heard their story but on the off-chance you haven't: nomadic Tuaregi tribesmen, natives of the Adrar of Iforas region in northeastern Mali... the Kel Tamashek... the Blue Men of the Sahara, desert traders who somehow found their way to military training camps in Libya... Colonel Ghaddafi's poet-soldiers going into battle with a guitar strapped over one shoulder and a Kalashnikov over the other... one of them is reputed to have seventeen bullet wounds... indeed, the stuff of legend.
After 18 years and many albums on cassette, they were first noticed by the Western world after their performance at Le Festival au D?sert in Tin-Essako, Mali in January of 2001; now they are getting gigs supporting the Rolling Stones. You'd think they've jumped the shark? Not so... this, their third international release, is a doozie. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to imagine a better result from a collision of psychedelic blues-rock and traditional-ish North African music.
The production is (shock! horror!) not overdone; the tunes are solid and trad-sounding and generally rooted in one or two chords (in fact to me the only misstep comes on "Matadjem Yinmixan" which seems to favour a more Western progression); the songs are mostly based around the call-and-response model while the backing singers keen and ululate like the wailing of the pitifully possessed. Leader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib's scrabbling guitar-breaks are super-reminiscent of John Lee Hooker via George Thoroughgood; perhaps even toss in some of the essence of Richard Thompson's modal explorations a la "Calvary Cross" and never forget Malian Islamo-bluesman and guitarist Al Farke Tour?, either.
So if you obsessively scour Awesome Tapes From Africa
; if you dream of slow-burning jams from the African desert; if you dig John Lee Hooker in a rocking chair and an open-tuned guitar and the talking blues; if you wanna dance all night barefoot around the open fire in the cooling sand under the deep violet sky... this one is for you.
9/10 -- Young Savage (23 July, 2008)