Tinariwen – Elwan

  • April 10, 2017

The 7th full length album from Tinariwen is a powerful and melancholic meditation on modern day global nomads, exiled from their tribal homelands of Saharan Mali by decades of political strife and violence. The style and context of Elwan remains firmly rooted in founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabibs plugged in rock and roll translations of traditional Tuareg music. Guitars drone and roll to syncopated layers of clapping percussion, and vocals revolve in communal call and response mantras. Themes of memory, longing and loss connect the shifting tempos of the album, recorded over two years in sessions that spanned three continents. Guitarist Matt Sweeney (Johnny Cash, Cat Power) Alan Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age) and singer songwriter Kurt Vile joined the band in 2014 to record in Joshua Tree California. Subsequent tracks were recorded in France, then in 2016 from tents pitched in the Moroccan desert, where local Gnawa drone singers provided vocal backup. Guest appearances on Elwan meld discreetly into the collective, polyrhythmic groove of the Tuareg players. The most visible cameos appear in “Nannuflay, a spare, hypnotic track that loops with reverberating guitar from Kurt Vile and circles to its end with Mark Lanegan’s bluesy baritone laying gently over a cycling arabic chant. The track “Tenere Taqqal” remembers a once free and open desert home as “an upland of thorns, where elephants fight each other, crushing tender grass underfoot,” Elwan, in its poetry and infusion of African, Arabic, and western Blues traditions, effectively funnels the loss, betrayal and pain of exile and into a gorgeously relevant album of world weary world music. – Written by SLynch



SIMILAR | Bombino, Orchestre Baobab, Tamikrest, Terakaft, Ali Farka Touré