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Iman Aman
Artist: Tinariwen
Label: Independiente
Length: 12 tracks / 54 mins
When Tinariwen take the stage with their robes and turbans, like the band of rebels they once were, they can be quite unsettling. After a few attempts at verbal communication (which mainly amount to the occasional “Welcome to the desert”) the threat recedes, giving way to the thrill of their desert blues.
Despite the many years that this loose collective has been playing together it is only now that they are piercing the stratosphere of world music. 
Tracks like the stunning Matadjem Vinmixan are precisely the reason. Although there are no words in English, its rhythms are impossible to ignore, its melody hard to forget. Tinariwen (which means 'desert boys') are masters of the groove. The rough-edged electric guitar forges patterns that push your body around like swaying corn, then handclaps and percussion push it further. This is all helped by a female chorus that does for desert blues what a horn section does for soul. Its peace-focused lyrics are a bonus.
In places this band of Touareg tribesmen sound very close to Ry Cooder's excellent collaboration with their countryman Ali Farke Touré. Just as Cooder was able to draw out sounds that resonate with Northern ears, Tinariwen's producer, Robert Plant's guitarist, Justin Adams, brings out a modern equivalent of the raw guitar tunes produced by the American bluesmen of the early twentieth century. He allows plenty of space that spotlights different features in different songs - some  dub echo in Toumast, bass runs in  Assouf and ululations sprinkled throughout.
Other than the vibrant music,  this disc is valuable for the insight it gives into the lives of people who are displaced and caught up in tribal conflicts. The impeccable packaging (which includes lyrics in three forms including an English translation) offers words that take us back through centuries of nomadic life. 
Here we read of harsh desert necessities (The trees are dessicated / Women and children await its water“); the pain of wandering (“I have been feeling aimless  / I search for the money I need .. / But it refuses to accumulate”, “I'm in a motherless land and my soul burns with unhappiness”); and desert traditions (“I took my show camel, fettered and rested for days”).
You don't have to be a Touareg to appreciate this disc. Anyone can hear the voice of the desert boys and many will fall in love their sand-blasted rhythms.
Derek Walker  6/18/2007



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