World - Blues
Dubai Opera is proud to present, Tinariwen, the multi-generational, Grammy-winning Tuareg band for one memorable performance on 12 December.
There is a depth of feeling in Tinariwen’s music that is universal. But to really understand the message of their songs, you need to understand where they’re from. Tinariwen are Tuaregs, children of a nomadic Berber tribe who have roamed the Saharan desert for thousands of years.
Over recent centuries, colonialism has seen the Tuareg’s ancestral territory partitioned into distinct countries - Mali, Algeria, Libya, Niger. This drawing of borders has turned the Tuareg into ishumar, a displaced people in search of a homeland lost to them. Tinariwen’s music – a blend of West African traditional music and electrified rock’n’roll – directly evokes this feeling of longing: a sound that critics have called “desert blues”.
The history of Tinariwen can be traced back to the late 1970s, where the group’s founding father Ibrahim Ag Alhabib – the son of a Tuareg rebel who as a young boy had witnessed his father’s execution at the hands of the Malian government – built his own guitar using a tin can, a stick and a bicycle brake wire and taught himself to play. Drifting through towns and refugee camps in search of work, he met fellow Tuareg musicians, and around campfires they would write songs which they would play at parties or social gatherings. People called them Kel Tinariwen, which translates from their native Tamashek to “People of the Deserts” or “The Desert Boys”.
Tinariwen’s music is mournful and defiant, powered by a sense of struggle. On “Tamatant Tilay'' from their breakout 2007 album Aman Iman: Water Is Life, they sing in Tamashek about rising up against their oppressors.
In 2001 they released their debut album proper, The Radio Tisdas Sessions, and set out on a world tour that continues to this day. They have taken their music to major global festivals like Glastonbury, WOMAD, Denmark’s Roskilde and Japan’s Fuji Rock; performed live on The Colbert Report and Later With Jools Holland; and played at the FIFA World Cup Kick-off Concert in South Africa in 2010. In the process, they have picked up some devotees – from Thom Yorke and Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers to Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, who in 2003 travelled to Festival au Désert in Mali to witness Tinariwen playing on home turf. “I felt this was the music I’d been looking for all my life,” he said.
“Arawan”, from their 2004 album Amassakoul, featured rapped lyrics in Tamashek and French, while 2011’s Grammy-winning Tassili was their first record to feature guest western musicians in the shape of Nels Cline of Wilco, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio. 2014’s Emmaar, recorded in a desert home from home, California’s Joshua Tree National Park, dwelt heavily on political strife. Meanwhile, Tinariwen’s seventh album Elwan, recorded in M’Hamid El Ghizlane, an oasis in the southern Morocco desert, used the metaphor of an elephant to show how everyone from Islamist militias to multinational corporations have trampled over the traditions that the Tuareg people hold dear.
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1 hour and 45 minutes including intermission