I Love Tinariwen

They describe their music not as rock or blues or soul but as “assouf”, which means nostalgia. The song Assouf, from the album Aman Iman (Water is Life) is sublime. But then there’s nothing about them that isn’t. This is music that’s as thrilling as melancholy, as festive as plaintive. It’s gritty, it’s ghostly – yep, it’s holy.

As an aside, I never thought I’d say it but there’s something about the group’s founder, Ibrahim, that reminds me of Jimi Hendrix, the one I thought no one could ever resemble. They do look alike. They both have the same cool cat charisma too. I know, comparing isn’t fair at all; Ibrahim is entirely his own thing (perhaps Jimi was channeling Ibrahim), as is everyone else in this Touareg band that various sites “place” on the map differently. Mali, Algerian border, Niger – like the Sahara, they transcend nations. No surprise then that no one sounds like them. They’ve been around for a while (since 1982) and have a fascinating history that I only found out about today, though if this is the first time you’re hearing about them, skip the history and absorb the music.

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