Feb 2004

The shimmering sound of desert blues

Desert Blues, African, World

Tinariwen hit their irresistibly danceable stride with this vivid double vinyl release of perfect desert blues.

How do you describe this music? Imagine you’re in a Bedouin tent with eight people in robes and guitars in front of massive guitar amps. Backing singers go into occasional Middle Eastern warbles as the incessant boogie beat catches their spirit, this is real desert blues. Amassakoul sounds dynamic, fluid and right there in the room, vivid instruments and voices from another world.

It’s the guitar player Abraham Ag Alhabib you can’t stop watching or listening to as he sings a language you can’t understand – but your feet understand that chugging beat. But there’s also a world-weary tone to his well-deep voice – he’s a man who has seen troubled times. The vibrato on his guitar makes a shimmering sound that goes back to Pops Staples. Alhabib’s guitar feels that way – like an echo of another time and place.

Tracks like Amassakoul 'N' Ténéré, Oualahila Ar Tesninam and Ténéré Daféo Nikchan are relatively short at 3 to 4 minutes – but each feels like a new rhythmic gem – weaving a beat that just won’t quit.

On Eh Massina Sintadoben the voices mesh into one – the flicking guitar notes chug and race – that danceable beat – African rhythms with a desert twist. They deviate into traditional instruments and monastic droning voices on Assoul – a stunning way to end the album – mystical and melodious.