(2010–Brick’s Picks, LA Weekly)
And there’s a couple great events from other continents on Saturday. We’ve been digging Mali’s Tinariwen quite a while, with their mix of Sahel feeling and melodies set to a very gritty instrumentation. It’s very bluesy, like so much Malian music, and it strikes a deep chord with many of us, but the rhythms are often wonderfully alien, loping chunkachunk swaying stuff, and it’s absolutely irresistible. It’s rock’n’roll hard too, so that 2007’s Iman Aman was almost a Saharan Exile on Main Street. Their latest Imidiwan is a touch lighter and less gritty but just as good. The men in this band did a brief stint long ago as Taureg guerillas, a romantic story that pop journalists still mooning over Che Guevara just love. But military service is just an interruption in many a young musician’s career, and Tinariwen are and always have been musicians first and foremost, turning ancient music traditions into a formidable new style that certainly blows our mind.
Ya gotta wonder about the art on the guitar, in that eye, that eagle, maybe a setting sun? A rising moon? Ancient stuff. Christianity purged most of the ancient signs from western culture, protestantism left nothing but the true cross. A whole universe of magic symbols reduced to one. Rationalism dispensed with that one and left us with nothing magical at all. For everything there is a logical explanation. Everything. For me there’s no longer any magic, no miracles. I see a guitar like this covered in ancient magic and I feel envy for a second or two. That’s all, just a second or two. I listen to Tinariwen and hear one of greatest bands in the world and all makes perfect musicological sense.