Record Review: Tinariwen – Tassili (Anti Records)

Saharan mantras healing the modern mind. Tinariwen bring desert chants, essentially enriching world music.

Tinariwen’s music comes from a different reality; a different world. A world where the pace of life is slower, where the natural landscape is prevalent and everything is set to the human-scale. Thus people are forged just by natural elements and human contact.

With ‘Tassili’ they bring some of this vibe to our soundsystems. I feel the replenishing sounds of Sahara’s sand adrift, the soundscapes of sand dunes shaped according to air currents’ will and the soulfeeding of magical nights gathered around the campfire singing with people of the Tuareg tribe. I have been there…I feel it.

Tinariwen, “the people of the deserts” (in Tamashek language), sing about the psychedelic essence of traveling through life, about our connection with the basic elements like the sun, the wind, the sand. Psychedelic in the true sense (not intoxicated) of purely experiencing life as it is. We, the refugees of real life, need a human touch, a glimpse of wilderness.

These bluesmen of the dessert do their best to awaken our spiritual self. They do that in a very warm and melodic way with their guitars, percussions (tinde drum), hand claps and multiple voices. They evoke a hypnotic yet calming and soothing body of music that we in the hectic side of the world immensely need, like a healing.

In ‘Tassili’, they employed the infamous ‘Dirty Dozen Brass Band’ to give a welcoming horn texture to ‘Ya Messinagh’ that results at a slight Calexico feel – amazing! Guitar master Nels Cline has put some complimenting electric effects on ‘Imidiwan Ma Tennam’. Although Tiwarinen play traditional music yet they have those dessert guitar licks that revive the spirit of Kyuss in songs like ‘Asuf D Alwa’ and ‘Tenere Taqqim Tossam’.

‘Walla Illa’ is an amazing song with a very eminent ethnic and a very catchy melody that can hook anyone on Earth. On the contrary,‘Tameyawt’ is a lonely dirge without rhythm and backing vocals that reminded me Cretan folk blues. ‘Swegh Attay’ is one of the best songs in the album – with stunning earthly melodies and memorable vocal lines.

Tinariwen are Tuareg rebels that have lived in refugee camps following a nomadic lifestyle. They have a history that goes far back in the late ‘70s and they have been recording international albums since 2002 when they were discovered by Westerner ears. ‘Tassili’ is their fifth album.

Their music is guitar driven akin to assouf style as known by Tuareg people that is entangled with Western influences. The influences from Berber music (Ginbri – hand drums style) are not as strong as the traditional Malian (you can also feel the spirit of Ali Farka Toure omnipresent).

This is the video of ‘Tenere Taqqim Tossam’, one of the most beautiful songs of ‘Tassili’, which includes footage from the actual recording sessions of the album:

‘Tassili’ i solid from start to end; it is actually like one song, a carpet of sound with tribal symbols. The quality of the recording is top-notch giving the right space and sound to every instrument – it animates the music so that you feel the musicians playing live all around you – you are in the same group. The album was actually recorded in tents right there in the magical ‘Tassili’ area of Algeria.

From the boundless lands of vastness and simplicity somewhere between Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Mali (borders are insignificant) these musicians deliver a healing blend of universal value.



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