Grammy Award-winning group of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali, who have opened for the Rolling Stones, been joined on stage by Flea from RHCP, played Glastonbury and Womad and been championed by Brian Eno, Robert Plant, Damon Albarn, Henry Rollins, Chris Martin (Coldplay), Bono and The Edge, Elvis Costello, Thom Yorke, Mick Jones (The Clash) and Carlos Santana.
Tinariwen’s new album, Elwan (The Elephants) will be released on February 10th. It is the band’s seventh, recorded in the rocky desert near M’Hamid (also known by its Berber name, Taragalte), a little town in southern Morocco, located in the Draa valley in the Zagora area. The area was chosen, as their home town in northern Mali proved too unstable and dangerous due to renewed conflict. It is also a place of significant cultural importance to the Tuareg-Berber people, the location where all the caravans would stop before making the long journey to Timbuktu. Recording started in February 2016 when they set up a mobile recording studio under canvas surrounded by dunes.
Tinariwen played in Taragalte for the first time in 2008 at the inaugural festival (www.taragalte.org) and while there the promoters invited the band to stay and record. From there the idea grew and it became clear that Taragalte was an obvious place to record – a ‘cultural crossroads’, and location that proved that traditional borders mean little to Tinariwen and their music. Sharing the same visceral feeling for their land, their freedom, their simplicity of life, and "assouf" (which is a sense of absolute and deep nostalgia felt when one is far from one’s homeland) was something Tinariwen shared with their nomad brothers from Taragalte, and which resonated especially with the younger generation from the Zagora area.
Special guests on Elwan include… Mark Lanegan - vocals, Kurt Vile - electric guitars, Matt Sweeney - electric guitars, Alain Johannes - Cigar box guitar, Imarhan, The Gangas de Tagounite (gnawi), Amar Chaoui.
“Listening to Tinariwen is like dropping a bucket into a deep well. I felt this was the music I’d been looking for all my life.” Robert Plant
“I really appreciated them. They come from a hard place. It’s very different when people are singing for their life, rather than just to eat. It’s really the Edge who introduced me to this music. It’s true that this kind of music is like a breath that I can feel.” Bono, U2
“The clock was totally taken from this weird ‘Arabian festival in the desert’ that Robert Plant did. There are a couple of tracks where these guitar players from Mali play these amazing riffs. So I copied their style and improvised for 10 minutes and then just randomly recorded bits until I captured something of what they were doing.” Thom Yorke, Radiohead
“They were proper rebels, and what a wonderful way to advertise a problem to the world : through music. You don’t have to understand the words to hear something deeper in it. It’s the mood that says it all.” Damon Albarn, Blur, Gorillaz
“To share this stage with Tinariwen is a real joy because when I hear them I hear the beginning of the music of the Mississippi and of Muddy Waters, Jeff Beck, BB King, Little Walter, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy... This is where it all comes from, they are the originators.” Carlos Santana