The Tinariwen story is already well marinated in startling myths; fierce nomadic desert tribesmen toting guns and guitars, Ghadaffi's poet-soldiers spreading their gospel of freedom throughout the world, turbaned rock'n'roll troubadours, Stratocaster on one shoulder, Kalashnikov on the other, 17 bullet wounds and rawest desert blues on earth.
Like all myths, like all legends, there's plenty of truth mixed in there with the wild fantasy and wishful thinking. But the real story is deeper, richer, more engrossing, and more universal. In the desert oasis of Tamanrasset, southern Algeria, three aimless teenage friends in exile – Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, Hassan Ag Touhami aka 'The Lion of the Desert' and Inteyeden - fall in love with the guitar, and with all the dreams of modernity and freedom that it embodies. They write songs about their own lives and about those of their friends, the modern Touareg youth, no longer lording over the desert on their camels, but living the clandestino life far from home, surviving by any means necessary, longing for friends and family, dreaming of retribution, of freedom, of self-determination. They are Kel Tinariwen, the 'desert boys'.
In the 1980s, all three become soldier-musicians, lured into military camps in Libya by Colonel Ghadaffi. Their songs become the soundtrack of a time and of a movement; the ishumar, the Sahara desert's Generation X. They fight a brief, painful rebellion against the government of Mali. They accept peace. They become full-time musicians and meet LoJo, a group of musical adventurers from Angers in France. They stage the first Festival in the Desert, visit Europe for the first time, release two albums including the award winning 'Amassakoul' and tour the world. This whole epic story takes 28 years to unfold.
And now the third album, 'Aman Iman: Water Is Life'. No difficulties here, apart from the 1,200-mile journey from their desert home in Kidal, north-eastern Mali, to the recording studio in the capital Bamako. Tinariwen simply delved into their seemingly inexhaustible trove of songs and dusted down 12 classics, which they worked up with the help of live sound engineer Jaja, producer Justin Adams (Robert Plant's guitarist and producer of the first Tinariwen CD 'Radio Tisdas Sessions') and recording engineer Ben Findlay. It only took ten days at Bogolan studios to nail them down and freeze frame the raw power and tenderness of modern desert blues at its best.
So forget the myths, forget the 'guns-and-guitars' fantasies and tales of blue-men on their camels. The humanity, the wonder and the epic sweep of the real Tinariwen story doesn't need any photoshopping or romantic embellishments. It is the raw tale of an everyman, who was cut off from history and embraced the modern world, who lost his home and found solace in the guitar, who through pain and exile invented a new style of music that could express who he is and where he's going. Nothing mythical or exotic about that. You can find the same story the world over.
Tinariwen would like to dedicate 'Aman Iman' to "Peace, tolerance and development in the Sahara and in the world of the oppressed."