Tinariwen (9:30 PM)

Wed, July 13, 2011

8:00 pm

$26.00 - $30.00

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This event is all ages

adv tix $26.00/dos tix $30.00

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Tinariwen - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
Tinariwen's back-story has variously been described as “the most compelling of any band” (Songlines), “the most rock’n’roll of them all” (The Irish Times), “hard-bitten” (Slate.com) and “dramatic” (The Independent). Indeed the tale of these poet-guitarists and soul rebels from the Sahara, with their almost mythical stories of guns and guitars, rebellion, Ghadaffi and the real Saharan blues, spans a long road from the wild empty places of the southern Sahara desert to the concert stages of the world.

In the northern desert regions of newly independent Mali, the brutal suppression of the 1963 Touareg uprising by the Malian army still haunts the local population like a nightmare. Of the many stories of suffering and incidents of callousness that survive in the collective memory, the one that is crucial to our story concerns Alhabib Ag Sidi, a mason and trader, who was arrested in front of his family in the village of Tessalit, taken to the barracks in Kidal and executed for aiding the rebels. His young four-year old son Ibrahim witnessed this before being forced into exile to Algeria with his family.

Ibrahim Ag Alhabib grew up in refugee camps in the deserts around the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset. He hated school and preferred running wild in the bush. One day he saw a film at a makeshift desert village cinema: a western, featuring a cowboy playing a guitar. The instrument made Ibrahim dream. He built his own guitar out of a tin can, a stick and bicycle brake wire, and started to play old Touareg melodies and modern Arabic pop tunes on it.

At the age of 9 Ibrahim ran away from home in a cement truck, to earn some money and see the world. He grew up wandering around Algeria and Libya doing odd jobs – carpenter, builder, tailor, gardener. It was a precarious existence; made bearable by the companionship of many other young Touareg men who were living the same marginal life in exile. Catastrophic droughts in the northern desert regions of Mali had almost wiped out the traditional nomadic way of life. Algeria and Libya were awash with errant exiled Touareg youth; jobless, paperless, surviving by any means necessary.

Towards the end of the 1970s, Ibrahim began to meet other Touareg of his age who shared his passion for music of all kinds, from traditional Touareg poetry and song to radical chaabi protest music, from Algerian pop rai to western rock and pop. This group of friends got together in Tamanrasset, and began to play at parties and weddings, and their reputation grew. They were new and radical inasmuch as they wrote their own poems and songs – not the old Touareg verse of heroic deeds and fair maidens – but new lyrics about homesickness, longing, exile and political awakening. In order to keep out of trouble with the law, Ibrahim and his friends would often just disappear off into the desert for a night or two, to drink tea, make music and sleep under the stars. People began to call them ‘Kel Tinariwen’, or ‘The Desert Boys’.

In 1980, Colonel Ghadaffi put out a decree inviting all young Touareg men, who were living illegally in Libya, to receive a full military training in the southern desert. Time spent in this military training and later with the Touareg rebel movement, the MPA, introduced the group to more aspiring musicians. Forming a collective, they built their own make-shift rehearsal studio, with a mission to write songs about the aspirations of the Touareg for political freedom, and then to record these songs without payment for whoever turned up at their door with an empty cassette. It was a propaganda machine for a people without any other forms of media whatsoever. The cassettes were taken back to camps and villages throughout the Sahara, and then copied again and again.

Ibrahim, Inteyeden, Japonais, Diarra, Hassan and their friends never saw themselves as one-dimensional propagandists however. They were musicians and poets. Their songs spoke of deep personal struggles and of their love of their desert home, as much as they raised the flag for the rebel movement. In 1989, frustrated by the lack of progress and by broken promises, the members of Tinariwen escaped from the Libyan camp and headed south into Mali. Ibrahim found himself back in Tessalit, the village of his birth, for the first time in 26 years. And then, in June 1990, the rebellion began.

It lasted about six months. Afterwards, most of Tinariwen decided to leave the military life behind and go back to being musicians. Ibrahim and his friends had no doubt that they were musicians first and foremost. They had become soldiers only out of necessity, for a brief and painful period. In groups of two, three, four or more, they also began to play gigs openly. Touareg from all over the Sahara were delighted finally to encounter the group who had invented the modern Touareg guitar style, who had been the pied pipers of the rebellion and whose songs defined the story of a whole generation.

They were nomads at heart, and the collective was often spread out over thousands of miles - some in Abidjan, others in North and West Africa. But that was the group’s strength. Just two members could get together in a village with a guitar or two, a djembe or water can for percussion, and sing the songs of Tinariwen. It’s often said that every Touareg is a member of Tinariwen, so widely are their songs known and treasured. They are more of a social movement than a desert rock’n’roll band.

Along with the French band Lo'Jo, several members of Tinariwen came up with the idea of creating a festival based on the traditional annual gatherings of Touareg. In January 2001, the first Festival in the Desert took place. About 1000 locals, and 80 Europeans gathered in that remote beautiful spot. Tinariwen were the stars of the show. A new international phase of their long hard journey was about to begin. By the end of 2001, Tinariwen had performed at WOMAD, Roskilde and London's South Bank. Their debut CD, ‘The Radio Tisdas Sessions’, was lauded by the world music scene and by African music aficionados. The guitar licks, the grungy grimy desert sound, the arcane yet effortless rhythms, the striking turbans and robes, the wild rebel iconography, the glimpsed power of their poetry…it all synched in with a general fatigue amongst adventurous pop and rock fans, exasperated with endless indi-rock bands.

Over the past seven years, the group have played over 700 concerts in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia. Their name has graced the bills of most of the world’s premier rock and world music festivals including Glastonbury, Coachella, Roskilde, Paleo, Les Vieilles Charrues, WOMAD and Printemps de Bourges. Their 2004 CD ‘Amassakoul’ (“The Traveller’) and its follow-up in 2007 ‘Aman Iman’ (“Water Is Life”), have established them as one of the most popular and best selling African groups on the planet. Their ever expanding fan base includes a host of stars and legends: Carlos Santana, Robert Plant, Bono and the Edge, Thom Yorke, Chris Martin, Henry Rollins, Brian Eno, TV on the Radio. In 2005 they were awarded a BBC Award for World Music, and in 2008 they received Germany’s prestigious Praetorius Music Prize. Their latest album ‘Imidiwan’ (2009) marks a return to their roots, recapturing the raw desert sound of their early recordings.

Those are the outward stats of success. Deep inside, Ibrahim, Hassan, Japonais and Abdallah gently rejoice in their improbable victory against all the odds. When they were just youths sharing a cigarette under the shade of an acacia tree somewhere in the southern Sahara, they always dreamed of travelling and seeing the world. Now they’ve done it. But their biggest source of pride has been in representing their music and their culture to the world and spreading the message that the desert really is one of the most beautiful, most peaceful and most inspirational places on earth.

Since 2001, the founders and elders of Tinariwen have been supported and energised by a new younger generation including bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, percussionist Said Ag Ayad, rhythm guitarist Elaga Ag Hamid, guitarist Abdallah Ag Lamida aka ‘Intidao’, vocalists Wonou Walet Sidati and the Walet Oumar sisters. They were just children when the rebellion ravaged the north of Mali and Niger. They grew up on Tinariwen’s songs. Their presence in the group brings Tinariwen in line with so many long-lasting music and theatre groups in Africa and elsewhere, who, by integrating successive generations of artists into their ranks, become self-perpetuating.
Venue Information:
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069

All lineups and times subject to change