Tinariwen – Aman Iman : Water is Life

With all the hype surrounding Tinariwen’s third international release, long-time fans could be forgiven for expecting to hear the lost desert album of Radiohead. Thank God it’s still the boys in blue’s trademark sound instead

As the very helpful notes attest, these are a dozen old-time classics set down over a similar number of days in Bamako — a mere 1200 mile trek from their base in Kidal, the other side of their huge and impossibly diverse country Mali. Yes, the production is a bit rockier perhaps and there is a broader tonal pallet in use than before, but this is very much classic Tinariwen.
It is perhaps an open secret that part of the excitement around this album, is to see whether or not a band with a bold bluesy rock sound can break out of the so-called ‘world music’ ghetto without singing in English and abandoning everything about themselves that makes them interesting. If this band can do it, perhaps the commonly held idea that the public in Britain are only interested in bands that sound and look like themselves will take a battering and we will all be able to enjoy a more varied diet of music than before.
Well, it wouldn’t be the first time it has been tried, and if they don’t succeed, it won’t alter the fact that here is a band of musical brothers with a huge loping sound and a passionate fan-base.
Oh yes and it has my favourite Tinaiwen track of all time, ‘Mano Dayak’. A gentle brushing of guitar strings and a heliocentric wail take you into a pulsing, hand clappy, massed chorus homage to freedom fighter Mano Dayak. Why is it that many of the best west African songs are homages to great men and virtually none of our best songs are?
Taken together the songs on this album represent a snapshot of Tamashek thinking: looking back over battles past, the very real difficulties of life in the present and a longing for a more unified and positive future.
Tinariwen – Aman Iman : Water is Life is out now in Independiente Records
Read our feature on TInariwen or read about The Festival in the Desert 2007 – Essakane, Mali
See photos of Tinariwen at The Festival in the Desert 2007 and Tinariwen at the Festival sur le Niger

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