Tinariwen: From The Deserts Of West Africa To The Deserts Of India

20 January 2014

A group of Tuareg musicians from Mali are the highlight at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival. This evening (20 January), the Grammy Award winning band, Tinariwen (meaning ‘deserts’) known for their revolutionary political messages and dynamic performances will take the stage for the first time in India. Their relevance in Mali’s socio-political transformation is well-known and highly significant. We were lucky enough to have an interaction with two of the band members-Abdallah Alhousseyni and Eyadou Ad Leeche to find out more about their latest release ‘Emmaar’ and to find out what the are looking forward to in India.

What does 'Emmaar' mean and can you tell us a little more about the album and why you recorded it in California?
We recorded in the Californian desert as Sahara was not secure for our crew. Emmaar means ‘the heat of the breeze’. It is a metaphor for the situation in our lands; the tension before the war, and the revolution. We invited a few musicians we met during our many tours, as we had invited TV On The Radio for our previous album. It is always a pleasure to meet musicians. When their experience is combined with our music, it’s great fun.

Your music has always been a weapon against injustice. Do you feel this has changed in any way or has your message evolved?
Many of our old songs have temporal lyrics. Of course we are looking for peace and intelligence in this society to preserve our population and cultural ancestry. We keep adapting and evolving our project which is our mode of life. We are principally pastoral nomads.

Abdallah Ag Lamida was arrested last year. Is it a constant struggle for you as a band still? How have the new/younger members of the band (who haven’t been a part of the military training and the uprising in the past) learnt deal with situation?
Of course the political situation in our region is very confusing and challenging. We are faced with many complications when it comes to getting all the musicians together. But until now we have always found a solution to be on tour and make music. But we love what we do also and understand the importance to represent our people, our culture and our situation.

Do you find any similarities between traditional Indian music and the music that comes from your land?
This is our first visit to India. We are very curious to know and explore Indian culture. We have been checking out pictures of your country to help expand our imagination of what it looks like. We are sure we’ll be fascinated by what we see. Ten years ago we met the Kawa Brass Band and Musafir in France a few times at international festivals and that’s our knowledge of Indian music. We hope to discover more about the music on this journey. It is an honour for us to be performing in India. Desert to Desert!

This is your first performance in India. What’s special about India for you and what can your fans expect?
We are very excited to meet the Indian audiences. As always we will perform our authentic set which is our style. We do wish that some of our Indian fans feel and understand the message in our music - from tradition to modernity.

From playing for people in the desert to garnering international recognition - the band has come a long way. Has the journey and where you are now professionally as a band affected the spirit of the music? Is it hard to keep the nomad spirit alive?
For over ten years now, we have been living a modern nomadic life! We have always been true to our art. We love being generous and we learn to find a good rhythm to travel. For sure we would love to stay a few more days in the immensity of your country, to discover your reality and to understand our ones!

**You can check out new music just revealed from Tinariwen's forthcoming album 'EMMAR' (due for release on 11 February) below and be sure to catch this legendary band perform live at the Jaipur Literature Festival tonight (Monday 20 January).**


Words: Shri K


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