Tinariwen, The Forum, London
Haunting rhythms of the desert
Wednesday 18 August 2010
Late on in Tinariwen's set, during the song "Imidiwan Winakalin" ("Friends Of My Country"), the bassist Eyadou Ag Leche leaves his post at the right rear of the stage and joins the singers and dancers Hassan Ag Touhami and Wonou Walet Sidati at the opposite corner, joining in with their distinctive swaying, shuffle-skipping dance at the front of the stage; by the time the set ends shortly after with the ever-popular Amassakoul'n'Tenere" ("Traveller In The Desert"), he's performing the most outlandish high-stepping counterpart to his bassline, like a trotting racehorse striving for the finishing line.
It has taken around an hour and a half to reach this point, during which the group's performance has first smouldered, then ignited, before becoming a raging blaze. Back in their desert homeland, I've seen their fellow Touareg dancing to Tinariwen, and it's the subtlest, least flamboyant expression of the terpsichorean muse imaginable, just a gentle swaying motion, with the feet shuffling no more than a few inches from side to side; so Eyadou's animation is quite unusual, evidence perhaps of the way the music takes him over as the show goes on. For if the frontman and chief songwriter Ibrahim Ag Alhabib is the band's soul, then Eyadou is its heart, his rolling dub/funk basslines pulsing away at its core, providing the bodily propulsion that enables the spidery guitar lines and mesmeric call-and-response vocals to access the mind.
Tinariwen has one basic rhythm which applies, with minor adjustments, to all their material. But what a rhythm it is – an infectious, twitchy beat surely derived from centuries spent travelling on camels, settling into their endless, loping gait in a way which keeps circulating around the body even when dismounted.
In their music, on tracks like the itchy "Chatma" ("My Sisters") and the crowd-pleasing "Cler Achel" ("I Spent The Day"), the beat is passed across from Said Ag Ayad's darbuka hand-drum (now joined by a second percussionist tapping imperceptibly on a gourd) to the syncopated handclaps of the dancers, with Eyadou's bassline suspended elastically between them.
In places, the groove speeds up as the music builds to a feverish climax, the elastic contracting smoothly, a fluid momentum beyond the mere mechanics employed in most western pop these days.
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’
- 5 The Simpsons Family Guy trailer: First look at crossover episode after Comic-Con debut
Secret Cinema: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
Game of Thrones season 4 blooper reel unveiled at Comic-Con 2014
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral backlash from US parenting groups
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Doctor Who series 8: Watch Peter Capaldi in new ‘Listen!’ teaser trailer
Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia