REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Tinariwen release their brand new album 'Emmaar'.

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

The blues and rock infused world music collective release their sixth album, much to the excitement of all their devoted fans.

Tinariwen 2Hailing from the Saharan Desert in the northern region of Mali, Tinariwen bring you more than a pinch of incredible soul and authenticity in their worldly guitar layered sound. The band, much to your surprise, was first formed in 1979 by one of the only remaining original band members Ag Alhabib who joined forces with other Tuareg rebel musicians within that community. These guys would explore and take inspiration from the chaabi protest music of Moroccan groups around at the time as well as looking into other groundbreaking musicians in the western rock and pop world, such as Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, Carlos Santana, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, to name a few. Ag Alhabib formed a group with Inteyeden Ag Ablil, his brother Liya, Ag Ablil, and Hassan Ag Touhami in Tamanrasset, Algeria to then go on to play at different weddings and parties.

In 1980, the Libyan ruler enforced a decree where all young Tuareg men who were living illegally in Libya had to receive full military training. Ag Alhabib and his bandmates at the time received nine months of training. It was through this experience that lead them to meeting other future members of the band after answering a call in 1985 from the Tuareg rebel movement in Libya. The men united musically, the new add on's of the band became a permanent fixture and the band was now more of a collective. They would name themselves Tinariwen, and aimed to write songs about the issues of the Tuareg people, in a studio they built. Tinariwen vowed to record their music for free for anyone who gave them a blank tape. These cassettes would later be traded throughout the Saharan region. This was just  the early days for this groundbreaking collective who would find themselves years later touring the world, releasing their sixth album and having  a Grammy award tucked under their wing for the Award For Best World Music Album.


Emmaar, (produced by Patrick Votan and mixed by Vance Powell -(Jack White, The Dead Weather)) was created not in the Saharan desert but in Joshua Tree in the Californian desert. Over the period of three weeks, the band played and recorded in a home studio to give the new album an essence of a live performance, adding in that organic natural essence. Still focusing heavily on their lives in the Sahara, the songs topics and initial buds of ideas remain the same even though recorded in a different place. Tinariwen are well-known for their political and cultural messages threaded into their desert-blues rock, and those poetic stories are ever-present in this album. “The new songs of this album talk about what we feel today,” Ag Leche says. “The Tuareg issues, the need of being recognized by the administration of our country. But also some poetic ways of describing our feelings. The Tamasheq language is using a lot of metaphors, and it comes from the old traditional tuareg poetry that tells about the Tuareg tribes, their adventures in the desert, the wars, but also the beauty of the desert, the sky, the lands, and the Assouf, our blues, and nostalgia of an old time.”


Even though a big percentage of Tinariwen's music on this album is dreamy and goes at a slow-groove pace, there is consistent passion and full-bodied vocal combinations. The melodic nature of every song takes you on a sandy picturesque journey in your mind. Imagine you're gazing out at the beautiful but harsh realities of the deserts where these wonderful musicians come from. You can only imagine the things these soulful voices and talented guitarists have experienced. What little nuggets of these life experiences are tipped into their smooth and intriguing plethora of sounds, are for you to receive and get a feeling from.

There aren't big jump-out songs on this album that are strong in catchy-ness or are particularly upbeat, but it doesn't really matter. It's not as if this album doesn't have soul or great songs woven into it. It's a beautiful thing to have an album as a whole experience and Emmaar certainly ticks that box. The messages are bold and poignant, the guitar work is reminiscent of the great Ali Farka Touré, and you can hear the rock influences mentioned earlier. Tinariwen don't just create desert-blues; there's a heck of a lot more to their music and so much of it can be left down to your own personal understanding and what you gain from it through your own unique ears. The pace is picked up in the fantastic track Imdiwanin ahi Tifhamam, embodying smooth textured harmonies in the vocals, some violin work, and as ever, clear crisp consistent drumming and reverberating guitar echoes. One can imagine also, at a festival or a suitable large performance space, the song Chaghaybou appearing second on the album, would be a climatic orb of sound, with funky twanging electric guitars throughout.

Tinariwen may have released many an album, all most definitely fitting into their desert-blues formula, but their spirit and talented musicianship carries through so much, you can't really say things get tiresome. At a few points you may find some of the tracks on this album to be similar in melody and pace, but the feel of their music is very special, unique to them and makes you think. We like music like this. It has soul.


Watch Tinariwen's new music video to go with their song Toumast Tincha

Head here to get yourself tickets to their UK date at London's Village Underground: