Tinariwen - Emmaar
Grammy winning Tinariwen are an interesting bunch, with a sound reaching from the furthest deserts of Africa to the dirt tracks and cactus of the American heartland. Formed in Algeria over thirty years ago they’ve broken through in Europe and the USA in the last few years with their blend of African tishoumaren music and more western folk and blues. Despite not being able to record in their Malian homeland due to political instability, Emmaar still found itself made in the desert, albeit the Californian version, in the Joshua Tree National Park. This time round they’ve complimented the mix of members from the two stages of the groups evolution, the founder members from the eighties and the new generation from the nineties, with a group of American musicians, including members of Josh Klinghoffer (from the Chili Peppers), poet Saul Williams, and Nashville fiddle man Fats Kaplin.
Their new release keeps the traditional sound alive whilst amping up the US influence, shifting away from the folksiness of previous releases. The core musical influence throughout is most definitely blues, with songs like ‘Chaghaybou’ using a bluesy sitar sound, keeping the Tuareg vibe at its centre. There’s the odd change of pace, some funk dropped in to ‘Koud Edhaz Emin’ for example, but the majority of tracks are atmospheric slow burns that move on with gently thumping drums and melodic bass lines, all given a sheen by the mesmerising quality of the vocals. There’s almost a religious hush to ‘Toumast Tincha’, the chant like harmonies adding depth and cementing that African feel throughout the eleven tracks.
Tinariwen have successfully managed a difficult transition. Having been physically moved on from the homeland that gives their music its heart and soul, the collective have managed to not only keep their spirit but add to it with the beats and ethos of their temporary American home. Emmaar is full of understated beauty and a tranquility which belies its political themes and the struggles of its creators.