"Desert rebel rockers" is the favored publicity shorthand for Tinariwen, whose powerful, moving music and exotic history require no hyperbole. The band was formed by Tauregs, the traditionally nomadic people of the Sahara Desert who have been increasingly marginalized and repressed by a succession of governments. By introducing electric guitars to the haunting traditional music of the desert, already rife with sinuous rhythms and entrancing melodies, Tinariwen came up with a sublime sound strikingly similar to the blues. On Tinariwen's latest album, Imidiwan: Companions (World Village), recorded in an oasis in the southern Sahara, founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib leads a chorus of electric guitars that echo John Lee Hooker, Ali Farka Toure, Sunny Ade, and even Hendrix, a magnificent wiry pulse that seems to whip across the sand dunes. The lyrics often either speak poetically of regret and memory, or stir revolutionary spirit. They're moaned as an undulating lamentation or in a scrambling torrent, male and female choruses close at hand to react in call-and-response fashion. It's gritty, lean music that is dramatically evocative of the Sahara's harsh beauty. Standing room only. (Photo by Thomas Dorn)
Wed., June 16, 7 p.m., 2010

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