Wednesday, 4/27/11

by musicclipoftheday

more sounds from the desert

Tinariwen, “Cler Achel,” live, London, 2007

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The desert is where I feel the most comfortable, the most at ease, the most relaxed. It’s also where I’m inspired to create music. To be honest, I don’t like spending too long away from the desert now. Well, that’s to say, I still like touring and travelling and seeing different parts of the globe, but I also like to be at home. And in the desert there are a lot of people who can help us . . . by hiring us a house, by cooking, by playing music with us. We can’t take all those people with us if we go and record in Bamako or Paris.


Assouf means nostalgia, homesickness. We’ve all felt it a lot, ever since the time of exile began after the first [Tuareg] rebellion in 1963. It’s the feeling that is most important in our music. But it also means other things. It’s like a pain that you can’t see and can’t touch, a pain that lives in your heart. It means loneliness and separation too. When I was living in Algeria and Libya in the 1980s and 1990s I felt assouf a lot, and that’s when I wrote a lot of the songs I play today.


In the desert, everybody is always moving. That’s our culture. It’s very very hard sometimes to get together, or to stay in the same place. We need our freedom. So Tinariwen has survived because really almost every Tamashek musician in the northeast of Mali or the south of Algeria is part of Tinariwen. And if just two of them come together to sing our songs, that’s enough for it to be Tinariwen. In the past, that’s how our concerts happened. Hassan and Abdallah might perform in Bamako or Abidjan while I was hundreds of miles away in Tamanrasset or someplace. So I know that some people have been frustrated for example when I haven’t been present on stage in America. But that’s how Tinariwen has always been, loose and flexible. Otherwise we could never survive.

Ibrahim Ag Alhabib (songwriter, singer, guitarist)