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Show review: Tinariwen at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, CA

The Troubadour
West Hollywood, California
July 13, 2011

The touring lineup of Tinariwen is ever-shifting. This night at the small and intimate Troubadour (holding around 200) , they were a five-piece with leader/vocalist/guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, singer/acoustic guitarist Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni, bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, percussionist Said Ag Ayad, and another rhythm guitarist/backing vocalist.

The majority of the music performed was taken from the upcoming album Tassili due out August 30th. The opening focus was on Alhabid singing (he took most of the lead vocals on the first half of the show) and guitar playing. Known for his fiery and original electric guitar work, he proved equally adept on acoustic. Whereas in earlier shows they tended to drift off into extended groove based jams, now the music is much more focused.

After a slow and moody opening two songs, the band kicked it into gear, and showed that acoustic guitars or not, they still had a bold, powerful sound with the call and response vocals they’re known for. After 30 minutes, Alhabib left the stage, letting Alhousseyni, a very charismatic figure in his own right, take the spotlight. He’s a fine acoustic guitarist and a compelling vocalist and songwriter as well. On his fourth number, Alhabib rejoined the band and added his vocals to the mix. (For some reason, the two rarely play guitar at the same time.) The rest of the band then left Alhabib to do one solo piece before rejoining him to finish off the night. It was at this time, an hour into the set, that Alhabib finally strapped on the electric guitar for the last two songs, finishing with perhaps their best known number, “Amassakoul’n’Tenere.” They were quickly called back on stage for another acoustic number before finishing with “Imazeghen n Adagh”.

This show was one of a set of five west coast club dates that were to be bookend by appearances at the Winnipeg and Vancouver Folk Festivals. Unfortunately, due to difficulties with the Canadian government, both festival appearances had to be cancelled because the groups’ application for entry visas were denied, not once, but twice. Despite the fact the band had toured Canada a number of times since 2004, and had played for the opening celebration of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, they were turned down on short notice, depriving them of the two highest profile (and paying) shows of the tour. It’s sad, because Tinariwen yet again subtlety shifted the focus of their music, this time turning toward an acoustic sound.

—Jim Lee, Simi Valley, CA

Promo for the new record:

“Tenere Taqhim Tossam” from the new album:


One comment on “Show review: Tinariwen at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, CA

  1. Jim Lee’s vivid review of Tinariwen’s show at the Troubadour covers the important musical
    bases. However, with the Sahel and specifically Libya’s portion of it suddently an
    American entanglement (via NATO, but see if the collateral human damage can
    differentiate) and there having been reports early on in Qaddafi’s offensive against
    his own people (at the northern border with Egypt in Benghazi and in the Amazigh
    intellectual heartland of the Adrar– or Mountains in the suppressed native tongue of
    Tamazight or Berber– Nphusah to the southeast on the mountainous border with
    Tunisia) of Kel Tamasheqt aka Tuareg or the nomadic Sahel dwelling branch of the Amazigh
    (Berber) collaborating with and fighting for Qaddafi even as the Adrar Nphusans
    immediately rose up in opposition to Tripoli’s regime, some context is called for.

    Thanks to UK journalist and early Tinariwen liaison Andy Morgan and to U.S.
    alternative journalist Bill Weinberg on this side of the pond & his exceptionally
    insightful WW4 Report for clarifying the various demographic complexities (compared with the them-there-Arabs of mainstream media approach) & shifting allegiances and motives of the decidedly non-monolithic Sahel-dwelling (overlapping all Saharan nation-states of North Africa) Kel Tamasheqt (Tuareg) in the Libyan liberation struggle.
    See: http://ww4report.com/node/9564 and http://ww4report.com/node/9618

    Also vis a vis the unified opposition of the Libyan Adrar Nphusa Imazighen (mountain Berbers who share regional variations of Kel Tamasheqt’s native North African language) who were dealing the Qaddafi loyalists severe strategic blows from the start after 40 years of ruthless suppression of native Tamazgha culture abetted for much of that time by the Arab League and ARAMCO and former colonial overlords the French Socialist (Chirac) and Italian
    Free-Market Feudalist (Berlusconi) regimes whose crude interests tended to favor propping up the Arab Facade across North Africa. See: http://ww4report.com/node/9619

    Tony Blair (UK’s former longrunning Labor PM) who helped bring Qaddafi in from the Swiss cheese sanctions following the Lockerbie bomber convictions of Libyan agents and 9-11-01 has not been heard from since greasing UK high tech weapons sales before Labor got the boot…Tinariwen and the Kel Tamasheqt will no doubt be keeping a higher profile out on tour
    if keeping mum on who the band backs in Libya…

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