When you consider the humble beginnings of Malian Tuareg desert blues collective Tinariwen as rebel fighters / part-time musicians, and their current status one of the most popular -world’ music acts, it’s the finest example of how extraordinary music can transcend borders, or in Tinariwens case, the entire Sahara Desert, no matter what it’s linguistic or marketing limitations.
Over the past number of years, and over a string of outstanding albums and incendiary festival performances these unpretentious nomads have won hearts and minds. 2007’s Aman Iman was the cool sound of that year, whether it be for its cultural affect and coffee table positioning, or for the addictive qualities of its trance-inducing rhythm section, let’s just say if one was to own one world music album of that year, it would have been Aman Iman.
Imidiwan:Companions is their fourth album, it is rich with the same blues licks, goatskin percussion, and collective harmonious voices following the lead of founding member and band leader Ibrahim Ag Alhabibs ancient vocals. They play on the strengths of previous albums, whoever takes lead vocal sings almost every line twice, with the repeated line accompanied by the rest of the band. Their subject matter remains firmly where their heart is, their love of their homeland, freedom, and the fight to be able to enjoy simple pleasures in life.
The main thing in enjoying Imidiwan is that in the wake of international success and an extended life amidst the western world during numerous sell out tours, they have remained firmly grounded in their traditions, Imidiwan is arguably even more traditional sounding than Iman Aman, and it’s a testament to their culture and heritage that they can withstand unnecessary musical influences. Some may feel it sounds too similar, and at times it does, but pay attention to the bass solo in -Tenhert’, the moment the brilliant (amp turned up to 11) beat comes in -Kel Tamashek’ or the dream inducing second half of closing track -Ere Tasfata Adounia’ for reassurance that Tinariwen can stretch themselves.
Imidiwan is a pleasure, it’s full of honesty and purity, but most importantly superb music, and it will in no doubt increase Tinariwen’s following and our love affair with this unique band.