Tuesday 7 March 2017
Musical veterans of the Sahara Desert, Tinariwen came to Liverpool to mark the start of the 25th anniversary of the African Oye festival and to promote their new album, Elwan. Set up by the team of people behind the legendary Kazimer music venue and club, and situated on the north docks on Regent Road, The Invisible Wind Factory is an interesting and vibrant gig space. It has an audience capacity of 1200 with high ceilings due to it being two old warehouses connected together, a unique lighting rig and a customized P.A. system. In the venue, there are areas separated by blackout fabric, and not only is it a music venue; it is a creative hub with a studio for artists, music production facilities, quirky avant-garde mobile art structures and an outside seating area.
Originally known by their fans as Kel Tinariwen (in the Tamasek language, this means “The People of The Deserts” or “The Desert Boys”), the formation of the group took place in Algeria in 1979, led by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, a Tuareg musician of north Malian descent. By 1985 they had moved to Libya and had participated in military training both under the Libyan government and later by leaders of the Tuareg rebel movement. They then formed a musical collective (with lyrics which focused on issues affecting the Tuareg people) becoming known just as Tinariwen. During this period of time they made the D.I.Y. recordings that were circulated across the Sahara Desert Area.
In 1989, they had moved to Mali and, by 1990, had taken part in a revolt against the Malian government. After peace was agreed in 1991, the group became full-time musicians and a decade later gained attention from Western audiences. They ditched their camels for a tour bus and began playing at a wide range of festivals, such as Glastonbury in the UK, Roskilde in Denmark and Womad Festival, also in the UK. In 2005, they received a World Music Award from the BBC, and, in 2012, they won a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album. Over the years, Tinariwen have continued to evolve, creating an everlasting lifespan by introducing younger members to the band.
Tinariwen’s music is powerful and passionate, reflecting many moods, both acoustic and electric, ancient as well as being contemporary and modern. They have a ton of influences, from African and Arabian to fusions of western rock and pop.
Tonight’s set was varied, full of light and shade that gradually built up and down throughout the late evening, switching from a crescendo to a mellow serene swirl and back again. Nomad music, infectious, hypnotic timbres and summery harmonies filled the old converted mill.
Overall, it was a fantastic performance and, although an acquired taste (having routes outside of western culture), Tinariwen are one of the most successful and original world music acts, and one of the most recognised rebel bands in the world.