Tinariwen, Tinariwen in the Woods, Kent, review: Pre-Glastonbury gig proves enchanting

Evokes desert winds and vast Saharan skies

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The Tuareg musicians from the desert in Mali have decamped to a small forest outside Deal, on the Kent coast, for a tiny world music festival organised by independent label Smugglers Records.

The Grammy-award-winning group, who play Glastonbury later this year, seem delighted to be outdoors in this 500-capacity grove, as do the audience, which demonstrates its enthusiasm with plenty of crowdsurfing.

Like Buena Vista Social Club, Tinariwen members are somewhat interchangeable and tonight founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib is replaced by the youthful Ag Lamida on guitar and lead vocals. Their robust sound seems to fill all of outdoors, beginning with a traditional Tuareg ballad and slowly building with deep bass grooves.

The set takes in rap, blues and rock’n’ roll, leading in with the enchanting hypnotism of “Imidiwan Ahi Sigdim” and “Tenhert” – a funky rap filled with toe-tapping electric guitars.

The finale, which begins with simple acoustic beauty, evoking desert winds and vast Saharan skies, melds gently into a whirlwind of sound that sees all six members, dressed in traditional robes, dancing and rocking out. 

Special mention goes to Alhassane ag Touhami, who resembles a joyful Buddha as he dances merrily as the percussion kicks in. As the sun sets, two women climb on stage and join in the dancing, willing the music to keep going through the night.