Determined Blues and Groove
Emanating from a continent with such a history of strife, Mali’s Tinariwen do have a sound that feels a little world weary, and yet their groove on Emmaar is so determined throughout that one almost feels a divine influence at play. At its core, Tinariwen feels to be a bluesy guitar based band with its slippery lead riffs and soulful vocals, and yet with the persistent counter-rhythms and percussive underbelly that no doubt derives from the musics of its native land, Tinariwen’s hybrid is irresistibly draws you in.
The feel is established in a big way with opener “Toumast Tincha” that has a groove that is straight stewing blues with tinges of lead guitar that weave like vines around the powerful core. Everything feels so locked in and fierce that the first time around, one is merely in awe of the groove. It doesn’t hurt that the double tracked vocals bear a memorable melody, like many of the tunes here.
The flow of the album is another thing to behold; it moves through such interesting moods and phases. From the tree root groove of the opener, the listener is guided through Southside Chicago-by-way-of-Mali to “Imdiwanin ahi Tifhamam,” which rides a simple beat punctuated by hand claps– and then on to the upbeat and flying rhythms of “Emajer.”
The instrumentation is never flashy or overwhelming, but bears the hallmarks of a band that has been at this for a while and have crafted as true craftspeople do. The guest appearances by the likes of poet/artist Saul Williams and current Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitar slinger Josh Klinghoffer provide some accessory flourishes. But in the bigger scheme of the album, these are truly accessory when compared to the solid foundation that pervades everything here.
It seems as though many times in modern popular music, when there is a deep routed message in the music, its power will usually come at the expense of the composition. However, Tinariwen’s craft is an excellent example of how powerful elements can not only work together, but strengthen each other in the mix. This is real world music– real music of the heart. Though the sounds seem to traverse such wide ranging expanses of land from atop this green earth, the real location that this harrowing music derives from is deep in the human soul.