SXSW Live Shot: Tinariwen

Desert blues and the Tuareg two-step

Introduced as the godfathers of desert blues and the group that brought Tuareg music to the international stage, Tinariwen melted minds with 45 minutes of swirling guitar grooves and percussion Friday night.

Photo by Sandy Carson

The hypnotic desert drone is perfect for wandering around your own head space like the Tuareg people have traversed the sands of the Sahara for centuries. Their songs unfurl at a decidedly unhurried pace, as if time itself has a different meaning for nomads. If there’s no destination, who cares how long it takes to get there?

Political turmoil has left Tinariwen in exile and their sixth and latest album, Emmaar, was recorded at Joshua Tree in California’s Mojave Desert. The bulk of the set-list pulled from that recent effort and 2011’s Tassili, but my Tamashek language skills could use some brushing up, so it was hard for these ears to tell. The band essentially does one thing, but that one thing’s absolutely mesmerizing.

Playing as a fivepiece, the group from northern Mali was dressed for a desert trek, donning traditional robes and taguelmoust head scarves. There wasn’t much dancing onstage, but when the groove was thick, one of the vocalists would lift the tail of his long scarf above his head and shuffle from side to side with a subtle grin.

From Mali to Texas, call it the Tuareg two-step.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw. Sign up for our South-by-specific newsletter at austinchronicle.com/newsletters/ for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest Tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

READ MORE
More Tinariwen
SXSW 2014 Records
Tinariwen
Emmaar (Record Review)

Thomas Fawcett, March 14, 2014

Fun Fun Fun Platters
Tinariwen
Tassili (Record Review)

Austin Powell, Nov. 4, 2011

More by Thomas Fawcett
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
The sometime Austinite tours the U.S. for the first time since 1969

Feb. 17, 2017

Texas Platters
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
Backlash (Record Review)

Feb. 10, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Tinariwen, SXSW Music 2014

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)