Genre : Band
Principal country concerned : Column : Music

The birth of the group Tinariwen in 1982 was intimately linked to exile and the consequent social upheaval experienced by the Touaregs. All the members of Tinariwen are natives of the Adrar of Iforas region in northeastern Mali. During the 1970s they sought refuge from drought and conflict in the southern Algerian town of Tamanrasset. Their lyrics call for the awakening of the politics of conscience and tackle the problems of exile, repression and territorial sovereignty. Arising from this painful period of exile, the group first took the name Taghret Tinariwen which means'the enlightenment of the nation' in Tamashek, the Touareg language. The original members slowly consolidated into a fully fledged group and added female backing vocalists to enhance their musical expression. Tinariwen performed in all kinds of settings….marriages, baptisms, gatherings of youth in the desert and traditional feasts. The music of Tinariwen Tinariwen are the creators of a new and contemporary style of Touareg music. This style is often simply referred to as'guitar', because the instrument symbolizes the modernity of the group's approach. Another name given to their style is Tishoumaren, or'of the'ishoumar'. It has played a determining role in the growing cultural awareness of the Touareg youth. The songs themselves are living, imaginative and often profoundly real evocations of the identity of the modern Touareg people. Exile and resistance were originally the major themes of the ishoumars but as time passed Tinariwen and their songs have expressed the wider struggles of daily life in the Tamashek speaking countries. Theirs is a song of love born in a time of conflict. Tinariwen are not only the original ishoumar group, they are also the most famous. The members of the band are living legends of contemporary Touareg music. Today the group comprises around ten people who have come from their native town of Kidal, administrative capital of the Adrar of Iforas region, to live in the Malian capital Bamako. This itself is a sign of changing times. The instrumentation which the group use is simple despite its modernity. Their link with traditional Touareg music is still clear. The instruments are of three types. First, strings, essentially guitars, acoustic or electric (but occasionally also other more traditional instruments like the tehardant or the n'goni) which play the melodies. Secondly, the lead voices, which perform lyrics supplied by a composer. All the musicians join in with the choruses. Thirdly, the group use the percussion instruments commonly found in the desert. The most important is simply hand claps. Touareg music carries you away on a gently rhythmic journey, in step with the languorous pace of the camel. The members of Tinariwen Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, aka Abreybone, vocals, guitar. Composer and musician, Ibrahim was born in 1958 in the area around Tessalit, on the border of Mali and Algeria. He is a founder member of Tinariwen and his songs are famous amongst his own people. His lyrics are deeply inspired by exile and the social upheaval of the Touareg people, but also by love. Mohamed Ag Illale, aka Japonais, vocals, guitar. Composer and musicians, Japonais was born in 1958 in the area near the village of Tin Essako in the northeastern corner of Mali. He joined Tinariwen at the start of the 1990s and the lyrics of his songs display the expressive skills and inspiration of a great poet. Alhousseini Abdoulahi, aka Abdalla, vocals, guitar. Composer and singer, Abdalla was born in 1968 in In-Lamawene. He began playing the guitar in 1988. More laid back and conciliatory that the rest of the group, Abdalla became known for singing about unity and reconciliation at the moment when the conflict was raging. He also writes plenty of songs about of love or lyrics with of a philosophical nature. Alassane Touhami, aka Abin-Abin, vocals, percussion, guitar. Alassane was born in 1959 in Kidal and his career has followed a similar path to that of his fellow members. He was one of the first, along with Abdalla, to move to Bamako. Alassane is the best percussionist in the group. Said Ag Ayad, percussionist. For the past couple of years Said has been playing more and more with Tinariwen, adding percussion instruments, which are played throughout North Africa, like the derbouka. Wounnou Wallet Oumar, vocals, percussion. A new member of the group, even though she has been performing with them on an occasional basis for a long time now. Wounnou was born in 1973 in Kidal where she still lives. Mina Wallet Oumar, vocals, percussion. The last addition to the line-up who, like her sister Wounnou, lives in Kidal.


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