Tinariwen | Interview

By: NoémiFri, 03/02/2018

We sat down with Tinariwen to talk about them as a band and their evolution throughout the years. Make sure to check them out at the Esplanade: Theatres on the Bay in Singapore on March 24th, 2018! 


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Who is Tinariwen? How did you guys meet?

At the beginning, the name of the band was “Taghreft Tinariwen”, possible to translate as “The construction of the Deserts” or how to build our deserts, or also “Kel Tinariwen”, “People from the Deserts”. At first, we met around 1978, during a long exile, following the oppression of the new Malian’s army in 1963. At this time we were very young and we all looked for something to do between south Algeria and Lybia. Then Ibrahim found his first guitar and brought it in the desert and spent time learning to play, fastly all our generation was very excited with this modern instrument, and all of us with their problems love to speak, to sing in this modern music!

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How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?

Since the first time our inspiration comes naturally from our situation, directly from our traditional music, and day after day we know more and more how to play guitar!

How would you define “desert blues”? And how do you keep your “desert blues” signature sound intact after all these years?

In Desert Blues we could understand as the blue man from the desert and also the blues as music style, both are true! Since we are evolving in the Occidental part of the world, we got the opportunity to work on our music, to chose with experiences and little bit of money power to feel free to work on it, also to discover all others bands gave us a lot of motivation and we found some sense to stay always authentic, nothing to change, all is here, the strong story of the members, a special style to play guitar and some universal lyrics, our old songs or the new ones have some correspondence with the news.

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You guys blend West African styles with guitar riffs inspired by American folk forms. What other genres and styles would you like to combine? What is your music-making process?

Our music style comes directly from our traditional music, in terms of rhythms and poetry. In the 1980s, in the desert, we never got too much the opportunity to listen to others bands and never we tried to copy any bands, for sure we already listened to some legendary rock band but really not often!

One of your guitarists (Abdallah Ag Alhousseini) mentioned during an interview with Algérie News in 2012: “We are military artists!” Can you elaborate on what that means and how this concept bleeds into your music?

In this term, I wish to say how we are involved with our population about our geopolitical situation. Also, our people always told us we are the ambassadors of our culture and his population! Also, I want to say how our life on tour is as hard as some military going to war!

Tell us more about your instruments i.e. Are you subject to brand loyalty or will you play with whatever's available? What made you choose the instruments you have now? Was it the cost or was it a style/model/brand/color preference?

Especially in the desert, we could only play with what we had, sometimes guitars without all the strings! My choice of acoustic guitar come since a long time, always I am looking still for a special style of Martin guitars! But to find the good one and to have enough money to pay took a long time! Now I have one but I need two, we never know!

How do you begin writing lyrics to a track?

Directly, simply, when I started to play, to learn guitar, the lyrics came automatically!

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Who are your musical icons/influences? And why?

I am a lover of country music!

What do you think of today’s mainstream music?

Actually, on stage many bands are so great and so different, the most important of course is to keep the authenticity as the real reason to play!

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What do you prefer: performing live or recording studio? And why?

Both are complementary, live it is very exciting to play with the audiences and the energy we could feel is a great power for the music! In the studio, we have to find back this power and it is the most important mood we have to find if we want to have a chance to record something true!


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