Tinariwen – ‘Imidiwan: Companions’

July 19, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: Music Australia Guide #67, July 2009.

Imidiwan: Companions

The Tinariwen story is the stuff of myth. Branded ‘war poets’ by the Western music press, their story is one of cultural and geographical dislocation, of war and struggle and hostile ecological environments, of hope and music and kinship. For the uninitiated, the players in Tinariwen are of the nomadic Kel Tamashek (or ‘Touareg’) people who once roamed the southern Saharan lands that now make up northern Mali. They formed in a Libyan refugee camp in the early 1980s; exiles forced from their homeland in the wake of a Malian government crackdown. But it would be an injustice to merely frame Tinariwen’s agile, abrasive blues-rock with their exotic by-line. As new album Imidiwan: Companions proves yet again, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib and his band transcend history and heritage. This is just plain, old, exhilaratingly good music. It is also their most settled and comprehensive statement thus far. The stabbing, fractured guitar hooks, tumbling percussion and haunting vocals of their early records such as 2004’s landmark Amassakoul are there in force, but so is the full-bodied rock dynamics of 2007’s Aman Iman: Water is Life. The surging blues of tracks like Tahult In and Imazaghen N Adagh make for some their richest and most fully realised melodies to date, while tracks like Intitlayaghen and the stunning Chibiba are two of their most tender. Indeed, what makes this suite of tracks so impressive is its completeness as a record. Imidiwan is about melody, tone layer and timbre. Its words may be foreign, but its language is universal.

Dan Rule


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