mon 20/05/2024

Tinariwen, O2 Institute 2, Birmingham review - desert superstars raise the roof | reviews, news & interviews

Tinariwen, O2 Institute 2, Birmingham review - desert superstars raise the roof

Tinariwen, O2 Institute 2, Birmingham review - desert superstars raise the roof

Back to basics assouf line-up casts a spell

Tinariwen: trancey and hypnotic grooves Guy Oddy

Mali’s Tinariwen have been a serious powerhouse in non-Western music since the 2001 release of their first major label album, The Radio Tisdas Sessions. Their sound certainly hasn’t stood still in the last twenty years though.

Female backing singers have come and gone, and pedal steel, banjo and fiddles have also made appearances on several of their albums, as Ibrahim Ag Alhabib and his crew have explored the shared sounds of West African desert blues and the rural music of the USA.

This week, however, Birmingham was treated to a back-to-basics line-up of the band, that dropped all external influences, and Tinariwen put on a show that was more than enough to transport those present to the Sahara Desert where the Tuareg culture that birthed their music still lives – however precariously. They also brought along their own Bez-like character, who danced and clapped and generally spent his time hyping the crowd up throughout the gig, not that the audience needed any encouragement whatsoever.

From the moment that Tinariwen stepped onto a stage that was wrapped in purple smoke and began laying down their deep assouf drone, hips were swaying and hands were raised up. Abdullah Ag Alhousseyni initially led the band in their bubbling and almost narcotic groove before Ibrahim Ag Alhabib made his grand entrance and pushed things up a gear. “Kek Alghalm” and “Arajghiyine” from the band’s recent Amatssou album brought some seriously trippy vibes with clapping percussion and a palpable longing for better times. While older, more recognisable tunes had a twisting and turning, skipping groove whose tempo ebbed and flowed with the call and response vocals.

Despite Tinariwen’s crowd obviously immersing themselves in the evening’s entertainment, quiet moments between songs were frequently filled with a tentative “Is ok?” from the stage. The band needn’t have worried. Birmingham was having a wild time even though it is doubtful whether even a handful of those present understood a single word that the band were singing.

In these times of ever-increasing social division, Tinariwen have managed to buck the trend with their audience and the O2 Institute 2 was packed with a seriously diverse and multi-cultural crowd for a rock gig of some 250 people. There were teenagers and there were retired people present; there were plenty of women, as well as men from a range of backgrounds; there were Rastas, young lads and girls of a South Asian heritage, young women from South East Asia and even some Radio 6 Dads – even though they weren’t in the majority for once. This healthy mix of humanity on a warm summer’s evening was just the thing to bring hope to us all and there was dancing, clapping and general audience participation from the moment that the band stepped onto the stage right up until when they called time and put down their instruments. The world needs more bands like Tinariwen, spreading good vibes to all.

The world needs more bands like Tinariwen, spreading good vibes to all

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