The desert blues of Saharan 7 piece Tinariwen are something to behold. On their albums Amassakoul and Aman Iman their music has this curious and rousing power, though you may not understand a word they’re saying you can actually feel it, as imbued in these hypnotic electric blues riffs and hand drums is a sense of struggle and unbridled joy.
So it was something of a surprise a month or so after Womad to find the Touareg outfit pop up in Melbourne, apparently one of the Blues and Roots Festival side shows. They walked out resplendent in their traditional garb, head scarfs, blue robes, they were a world music fetishists dream. And then it began, the low key hypnotism these gentle blues grooves, yet the band just stood there. Barely moving. They appeared tentative, perhaps nervous and the music felt uniform with very little differentiation between songs. Slowly though the aisles began to fill with dancers and the band gradually began to loosen up. Despite their incredible visual presence their immobility proved to be a major distraction. Once you closed your eyes however it was all there, all the feeling, the power and emotion. It became clear that Tinariwen aren’t a band that you want to just sit and watch, their music stirs you and you need to feel it and possibly move too. And conversely perhaps the band need something back. This may account for the lacklustre beginning and the complete turnaround throughout the second half, as despite the difficult and formal seating arrangements of Hamer Hall some sort of exchange seemed to be happening. Deep in your chair eyes closed suddenly you would realise that you’d totally lost yourself in the repetitive guitar riffs, subtle grooves, hypnotic percussion and multi layered vocals, suddenly it wasn’t about seeing their robes, marveling at their back story or even their unique take on Western instrumentation fused to Desert Traditions, it was all experience, all feeling, and it was beautiful.
Bob Baker Fish