Musical warriors: The Tuareg

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The Independent Culture

Perhaps the purest exponents of desert blues are Tinariwen. The band’s backstory is the stuff of legend – members of the loose collective fought in the Mali Civil War during the Nineties, and tales of the Tuareg musicians going into battle with both Kalashnikovs and guitars slung over their backs are legion. Their sound is unique – layered guitars interweaving with call and response vocals, handclaps and female throat singers.

It’s highly evocative, trance-like music that transports you to a campfire in the heart of the Sahara, scarves swathed round your face to keep out the biting wind, camels tethered in the shadows, endless glasses of sweet tea, stars twinkling overhead. Robert Plant is a convert to their distinctive, hypnotic sound, as is guitar legend Carlos Santana: “When I hear them, I hear the beginning of the music of the Mississippi and of Muddy Waters, BB King, Little Walter, Otis Rush… This is where it all comes from – they are the originators.”

The band helped form the Festival in the Desert in 2001 and released their third album Aman Imam in 2007 to critical acclaim. But for the perfect introduction to their unique sound, check out “Amassakoul’N’Ténéré” and “Chatma” from their 2004 album Amassakoul.