Monday, April 02, 2007

Tinariwen at the Barbican London

Howard Male reviews Tinariwen's performance at the Barbican London.

As he begins the evening with a solo performance of "Tenere," charismatic frontman, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, barely tickles the strings of his Stratocaster and sings like John Lee Hooker at his most laid-back. Then the rest of the eight-piece join him, and we find out why this Touareg band are currently capturing the imagination of Mojo readers and world music fans alike.

Handclaps, and a hand-drum no bigger than a footstool, form all the percussive backdrop that's needed. This leaves plenty of space for the three guitarists, who are the heart of the band's sound, to interlock and interact, while the bass(pictured, below) throbs away in the background. One guitarist deals out angular chugging riffs. The other two issue wiry curlicues of notes, creating the illusion of baroque complexity in songs built from just one or two chords. The tone of the guitars is clean and sharp, but with an edge of distortion: the sound of electricity incarnate; no pomp, just pure African soul.

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