St David’s Hall, Cardiff
Thur 24 July
words CHARLIE PIERCEY
Upon researching the background of Tinariwen, I was astonished to discover the adversity and oppression they have endured over their 35-year career, largely for just wanting to make music. More recently in 2012 and 2013, political unrest in their home of Northern Mali saw conflict that was enough for them to have to pack up and leave.
Whilst their collective voice is indeed strong, it wouldn’t be beyond reason to expect them to use their performance as a conduit for any defiance and disdain, however, an undying joy and thirst for life seemed to more important to them. Without understanding their language it’s difficult to get a sense of what they might be expressing lyrically in their music, but it certainly seems that they are more driven by peaceful motives, using traditional Tamasheq words and relishing in (and dancing to) the remarkable layered sounds and transfixing rhythms with which they have been experimenting for years out in the desert.
It may have originated in the barren landscapes of the Sahara, but this music is anything but dry. Tinariwen’s set demonstrated that they are more than capable of illuminating the stage: beautifully propulsive syncopated percussion, twangy, mesmeric guitars and bold, chanting vocals rode fearlessly atop bass lines of great depth and unwavering intensity. Some might argue that their drones and dirges were a tad repetitive but I feel they would be missing the bigger picture; Tinariwen certainly don’t play pop songs, they play songs that transcend genres and limitations set by anything conventional. It is in this that they perfectly encapsulate freedom and they don’t have any qualms about encouraging it too.