In an age of over-produced, mass-marketed tripe, Tinariwen is a beacon shining from the Sahara. Their 2007 Aman Iman relies heavily on the rare sound of raw, straining human voices and features handclaps as primary percussion. Foremost, there is a voice singing against isolation and violence in favor of a solidarity so desperately needed to improve the station of the Touareg people. Although the lyrics are in Tamashek, the English translation included with the CD confirms that much of the songs’ essential meanings are communicated. The group’s vital, driving rhythms ensure that this cry is one of hope, not of desperation.
Tinariwen has mastered mixing commonplace and innovation to avoid one of the shortcomings of much music that is categorized as “world” - that vanilla, please-everyone blandness that ends up putting one to sleep. The group skillfully sets familiar western instruments to a uniquely African rhythm and also have a skill for improvisation on a theme. Especially on track four, “Ahimana,” where Japonias (whose wordcraft is respected throughout Africa) takes the lead, breaking down a traditional folk song and making it his own. Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, the group’s most frequent lead singer, often passes the mic to one of the group’s 8+ other members, who constantly improvise, and switch again. That is the beauty of Tinariwen, a band whose music-making mirrors their politics of inclusion and is ultimately the sound of celebration. It's the sound made when family gets together, relaxes its internal defenses and remembers what makes them a family.