Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 4 October 2015

The Saharan ‘guitar poets’ who have inspired Bono and Carlos Santana bring their unique sound to Belfast

Published 14/10/2009

The script that brought this band into being and from thence to the Belfast Festival is almost too surreal to be true.

But in the long history of the Touareg peoples of Saharan Africa, the tale of Tinariwen is unfortunately not unique.

They were brought up in exile away from their homeland, exposed to conflict at too-young ages, and driven underground (where their rebellion and their music thrived).

Described as “guitar-poets” from the southern Sahara, Tinariwen are held aloft as symbols of resistance by their own people.

Their music echoes the dreamy shadows of desert life, and the dignity of the nomads, their way of being and a yearning for independence from the state of Mali.

But theirs is, too, a modern sound, with electric guitar, blues rock and pop woven around Touareg, Berber and Arabic influences. They are said to have inspired Bono, Carlos Santana, Robert Plant and others.

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Chris Martin is said to have credited the band with having an influence on Coldplay's 2008 album, Viva la Vida.

Reviewers have hailed the group, whose name translates as ‘The Deserts’, saying their soundtrack became “the soundtrack for an entire generation of exiled Touareg youth”.

The Touareg are a disparate people who inhabit the Saharan interior of north western Africa. Countries with a significant Touareg presence include Niger, Mali, Libya, Burkina Faso and Algeria.

Essentially a Berber nomadic pastoralist people, their relationships with some of the various governments in the region have been fractured by years of suspicion and even conflict.

Indeed, a peace process in Mali and Niger stuttered to a halt a number of years ago before exploding into a Touareg rebellion in 2007 that continues sporadically to this day, despite a peace deal in May of this year.

The genesis of the band is bound to Touareg history. They formed in the early 1980s after hearing bootlegged rock and blues music when they were conscripted into Gaddafi's Libyan army.

Fans of World Music are in for a real treat this Friday.

Tinariwen play the Mandela Hall on Friday October 16. Doors open 8pm

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