November 2007

presented by Small World Music & CIUT 89.5's Karibuni
November 20, 2007 The Mod Club Toronto
Dessert For The Soul In Desert Blues
by Laila Boulos with photos by Roger Humbert
Viewing the expectant and animated sea of people from the second floor of the Mod Club, any hope of nearing the stage to get a better look at Tinariwen evaporated into desert sand. Thankfully, two large screens were projecting magnified images from the stage out to the audience.
Walking onto the stage, an obviously elated Alan Davis from Small World Music, sincerely thanked the wall-to-wall crowd for supporting live music in Toronto. (Small World Music, along with CIUT 89.5's Karibuni radio show, was proudly presenting this evening). And while effusively introducing the band, Davis threw some t-shirts into the appreciative crowd.

Tinariwen, if you are not aware, followed a musical path that was strewn with many obstacles. But they persevered. Although formed in 1982, Tinariwen remained underground for many years as their politically infused music, popular with the common people and, for many years passed around on worn cassette tapes, displeased those in power. The members of Tinariwen — which can expand, at times, to at least ten people — were also conscripted to fight in Moammar Ghadafi's army and rumour has it that Ali Farka Touré had to cancel a concert in Toronto to fight in that same war.

Harbourfront Centre was the first stop to have the luck to host Tinariwen (July 15, 2007) in Toronto and since that illustrious visit, this city has been abuzz with superlatives and flung-open doors salivating for the next visit of these nomadic Tuaregs. Thankfully, with the release of their latest album, Aman Iman (Water is Life), Tinariwen has once again landed in Toronto.

On this particular evening, once Tinariwen floated onstage like apparitions in their flowing robes and cheches (turbans), it was as if someone pressed a button and that hypnotic blend of desert blues which they refer to as `Tishoumaren`, or rather, `guitar` began pouring effortlessly from the stage.

These musical Tamashek-speaking, desert-blues-playing rebels have musical influences as diverse as Ali Farka Touré, Boubacar Traoré and Led Zeppelin. Playing alongside Robert Plant at The Festival in the Desert; invited by Carlos Santana to play in "My Blues is Deep" at the Montreux Jazz Festival; and, chosen by The Rolling Stones to be their opening act, Tinariwen are anything but under the radar these days.
Tinariwen's music bursts with both politically and spiritually drenched stories set to a backdrop of sexy electric and haunting acoustic guitar riffs, with intoxicating drum beats. These hallucinogenic rhythms weave the listener in and out deliriously from one song to the next.

On this night, the only stage adornment was the creative lighting in alternating hues of deep red, fuchsia, multi-coloured stripes and psychedelic backdrops which bathed the stage in sheer curtains of brilliant colour. This allowed the audience to take in the full effect of their uncommon rhythms and mesmerizing presence.

Watching these musicians on stage, it was unfathomable to picture them in battle as they unselfconsciously glided playfully across the stage or leapt back-and-forth in an endearing rock star imitation/emulation while producing their gorgeous transcendental music.

The evening was a musical oasis as Tinariwen immersed their audience in languid, hypnotic pools of sexy blues. And they were defenseless puppets occasionally coming up for air or drifting in and out of their Zen-like state of reverie.

So powerful was the Tinariwen 'effect' on their audience that when they clapped, the audience clapped and when they said, "Now we are going to dance together" they danced more vigorously than they had previously.

The encore of two songs — the first, a simply beautiful duet with only one guitar and drums followed with a full band piece that could very well have been inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland — was not enough to satiate this audience who, despite having spent the night drinking at the oasis in the desert, was still thirsty.

After a long applause and plenty of hollering, the band good-naturedly returned to play three more songs and left the stage as unassumingly as they had arrived on it almost two hours before.

And still, many people remained in the room chatting animatedly and laughing, not wanting to leave too quickly and risk breaking the lovely spell cast on them by the spectacular performance of these musical rebels.

For everyone concerned, hopefully the members of Tinariwen will, in future, only be required to use their instruments and voices as weapons.

> www.tinariwen.com <

> www.smallworldmusic <

We welcome your comments and feedback
Laila Boulos
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
• •
The Live Music Report

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