I know it’s pain getting there from anywhere east of Beverly Hills, but Tinariwen are playing the Santa Monica Pier this Thursday. They are from Mali, but are actually Taureg and share that cool kind bluesy Malian sound that’s been stirring up the music scene in a lot of places (if not the American rock scene…) You can hear an example of them on that incredible “Festival in the Desert” album, which is a live recording from the same named event held in the sands a day’s drive from Timbuktu. That album is the most exciting live concert recording I have heard in many years, and I can’t see how some of it’s amazing, bluesy, funky, windy Afro-Saharan vibe won’t be emanating from the stage this Thursday at the Pier. Funny thing about this desert sound is it’s eerie similarity to American blues…there’s a real John Lee Hooker loping groove and grit to it. Like the best roots reggae in a way. Well worth your checking out, even if you are not as addicted to African sounds as some of us are.
Besides, it’s free.
(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.