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Tinariwen announced Wednesday (9/14) that their shows in Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland have been canceled.
Perhaps paradoxically, the Sahara Desert has been a fertile breeding ground for bands that put an African twist on the venerable American art form known as the blues. This century has seen an influx of bands from that arid region infuse the blues with expressive and oddly tuned guitar riffs and propulsive, relentless rhythms that rock you in a lurching manner. For over 20 years, Tinariwen—a group of Tuareg musicians and rebels from Mali who received military training shortly after forming in 1979—have been among the prime catalysts in converting Westerners to this style of soulful desert blues. It can sound as world-weary as a lifelong nomad or as inspirational and moving as a million-person march.
Bandleader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib and his unison-chanting backing vocalists sing in Tamashek, but the inflections of their voices transcend language barriers and convey a profound poignancy. Tinariwen’s roiling, hypnotic jams have overcome cultural differences and spread communal cheer in large festival audiences throughout America. Their 2011 LP Tassili earned them a Grammy for Best World Music Album. Much of what gets categorized under the problematic rubric “world music” is as bland as American MOR fare, but Tinariwen—who’ve been living in exile since the Mali War began in 2012—bring a raw passion and incisive sonic attack to their performances that convince you more is at stake than mere entertainment.