SXSWfm 2014 Artist Spotlight: Tinariwen

Written by Ariel Miller | December 16, 2013

SXSW 2014 Band Tinariwen

First formed in 1979, Tinariwen could be considered the pioneers of the Tuareg musicians, hailing from the Sahara Desert. Rising from oppression (they were exiled from their native Mali), the group has created music packed with emotion that pays homage to their nomadic roots while presenting a completely progressive sound.

In 2007, with the release of Aman Iman, Tinariwen garnered international recognition and celebrity fans like Carlos Santana, Robert Plant, Bono, and Thom Yorke, among others. In 2011, the band set out on a new world tour, where they had the opportunity to captivate audiences with performances at England’s End of the World Festival and All Tomorrow’s Parties. Since 2001, the band has played over 700 concerts in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia including performances at Bonnaroo, Austin Psych Fest and Roskilde. Their fifth album, Tassili, was released on August 30, 2011 and earned the group the Best World Music Album honor at the 54th GRAMMY Awards.

To say Tinariwen’s music is unique would be a colossal understatement. With upbeat melodies, rhythmic, tribal beats, and seamless harmonies, it’s clear these aren’t just musicians, but artists deeply skilled in their craft.

It’s pretty incredible that the guitar is not a traditional instrument for the Tuaregs. According to an article in the New York Times, founder Mr. ag Alhabib “recalls fashioning one as a child after he saw it being played in a movie.”

In the same article, ag Alhabib told the New York Times: “We didn’t know about these people at first because we were in our own universe,” Mr. ag Leche explained. “But when we first started hearing Hendrix, just to name someone, we felt something immediately. It was almost as if I had known that music from the day I was born. I’m told that a lot of the Africans who went to North America came from West Africa, from our part of the world. So it’s all the same connection. I think that any people who have lived through something that is very hard, feel this asuf, this pain, this longing. That is what will make their music sound similar to each other.”

The band is beyond classification - folk, rock, and blues, could all be used to describe Tinariwen’s sound. They’ve mastered the art of covering multiple genres and embodying what it means to be truly dynamic. We can't wait to see what they bring to their stage at their first SXSW performance this 2014. You can preview the music of Tinariwen and more SXSW 2014 Showcasing Artists on SXSWfm - the official online radio channel of SXSW. Stream us on your mobile device or desktop here.

Tinariwen photo courtesy of the artist