Tinariwen: Aman Imam

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By: Chris Pacifico

Always garbed like the Nomads they are, Tinariwen wander all over a hot and muggy sandstorm of wafting blues, soul and otherworldly delights of their native land of Mali. While the West African desert country is a deeply impoverished nation, it’s nice to see that a band like Tinariwen can still evoke its 15th century glory days when it was one of the world’s leading artistic and intellectual epicenters.

When listening to Aman Imam: Water is Life (World Village), one can almost feel the intense heat and humid winds of the Sahara while grooving out to lead guitar man and vocalist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib’s wiry method of blues-based picking, a somewhat sharp sound to the naked ear.

Tinariwen’s mixture of French and Tamashek in their lyrics makes their eloquence all the more enigmatically exotic. The opener “Cler Achel” sees the chanting like a vintage Bollywood film soundtrack atop supple polyrhythms. “Ahimana” is a sooty campfire hymn-a-long with clip-clopping, psychedelic rhythms and slinky mantras reminiscent of King Sunny Ade that slowly dashes upward and upward, yet is in no way a crescendo. Speaking of old world music in the vinyl vault, the brittle island dub and earthy resonance of “Toumast” and “Imidiwan Winakalin” got me digging through my crates to find my Cymande records.

Aman Iman is probably the most unfettered studio release yet by Tinariwen. Producer Justin Adams, who plays guitarist in Robert Plant‘s Strange Sensation, goes light on the technological touches to create a full-bodied, simmering listen.

JamBase | Mali
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