Betto Arcos returns once again to weekends on All Things Considered to share what he’s been spinning on Global Village, the world music show he hosts on KPFK in Los Angeles. This week, Arcos has brought Guy Raz four 21st-century interpretations of cumbia, a traditional music from Colombia and Panama. But Arcos’ contemporary playlist stretches beyond the humid north of South America, featuring garage-rock cumbia from Mexico City, subtropical cumbia from urban Uruguay and more.
JBEIL, Lebanon: With electric guitar riffs carried on hot, North African winds, Tinariwen welcome you to the desert. The world-renowned band of Tuareg musicians from Northern Mali closed the 2012 Byblos Festival Wednesday night, introducing their bluesy desert rock to a small, yet devoted, crowd of African music enthusiasts.
In traditional Tuareg regalia of black or white turbans and billowing colored robes, the six touring members of Tinariwen played a generous and uncompromising set, sampling numbers from their Grammy Award-winning 2011 release “Tassili,” as well as songs from their earlier, acclaimed albums “Aman Iman” (Water is life) and “Imidiwan” (Companions).
Often described as desert blues or Saharan rock, Tinariwen’s style is based on Tuareg melodies, traditionally played on a shepherd’s flute, but transferred to the medium of acoustic and electric guitars. With Berber, Arabic and African elements, the music is the product of wanderers, picking up influences from different peoples and cultures until forming a style unto itself.
Here’s another rave review for Tinariwen, who are playing at the Carrboro ArtsCenter in October. Get your tickets now!
Tinariwen have released 4 studio albums, which are all good. But what the albums made me feel, on top of “This music sounds awesome,” was “I have to see them live.”
I did. And so should anyone who likes music, I think.
When we Westerners hear recordings of Western artists, our connection with them that comes from having a vague idea of what they might be like. And this vague idea doesn’t just come from seeing pictures or videos of them- it comes from sharing a general cultural background.
When we see, for example, the Rolling Stones, we’re amazed and surprised, but, in a way, we knew what to expect. The recording draws dots and the live show connects them.
Tinariwen didn’t connect the dots, though. They drew new shapes entirely.
Tinariwen played 5 US shows in June, 2012, their first gigs here since forces in the north of Mali—the musicians’ home—declared an independent state of Azawad. Initially, Azawad was presented as a Tuareg homeland, the realization of a vision that has consumed the members of Tinariwen since the band’s beginnings in refugee camps of Algeria and Libya, going back to the 1970s. However, it seems now that the extreme Islamist forces of Ansar Dine are in fact in the driver’s seat—banning music, demanding women to be veiled and mostly homebound, and destroying centuries-old shrines and manuscripts in Timbuktu. Further complicating the picture is a robust drug trafficking industry in which players sometimes disguise themselves as Islamists or Tuareg rebels, when their true interest is protecting turf.
This was heady stuff to get into with my old friend Abdallah Ag Alhousseini of Tinariwen in between the band’s soundcheck and performance at Warsaw in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We started on the lighter side. I showed him a clip from a video I shot on the streets of Bamako in 1996. Recently, while reviewing this old footage, I realized that I had chatted with and filmed Abdallah years before I met him officially and heard Tinariwen. The young kid in a straw hat in this video seems a far cry from the robed, turbaned gentleman we see today, but the telltale smile is unmistakable.
Hypnotic “Saharan blues” band Tinariwen, who won the 2012 Best World Music Album Grammy for “Tassili” were often associated with just one image: that of Touareg rebels leading the charge, machine gun in hand and electric guitar slung over the shoulder. The founding members abandoned their weapons long ago and on this new album they have engineered a minor aesthetic revolution by setting the electric guitar – the instrument which became their mascot and made them famous – to one side and giving pride of place to acoustic sounds, recorded right in the heart of the desert, which is the landscape of their existence, the cradle of their culture and the source of their inspiration. You might even call this radical move a return to the very essence of their art, a return which, paradoxically, has also opened the doors to some intriguing collaborations with members of TV On The Radio, Nels Cline (Wilco) or The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. www.tinariwen.com. This evening is also part of the 11th Annual Daniel Pearl World Music Days, a global network of performances that unites audiences around the world in their common humanity as they take a stand against violence and hate. The performance, made possible in part by Friends of World Music., will be a seated show, but Tinariwen fans are welcome to dance in the aisles! Recommended for fans of: Ali Farka Toure, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ry Cooder.
AfroCubism is a transcendent collaboration between master musicians from Mali and Cuba, brought together by the producer of the most successful world-music album in history, Buena Vista Social Club. In fact, it’s the belated realization of the original project that Buena Vista came to be when the Malians were unable to travel to Havana for the recording session.
The super group features Buena Vista principal Eliades Ochoa (singer of Buena Vista Social Club signature song “Chan Chan”) and his band Grupo Patria, and a Who’s Who of Malian instrumentalists and singers, including the virtuosic kora player Toumani Diabate, guitar legend Djelimady Tounkara, ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate, and griot singer Kassé Diabaté.