Hypnotizing fans with rhythmic poetry.
Performing outside their homeland for much of their 35-year career, Tinariwen are nomads in more ways than one. The band bring music from the Tuareg, a nomadic culture in the Sahara desert, to the world. They'll share it at Madison's Majestic Theatre on April 8.
With eerie harmonies and hypnotic rhythmic poetry, Tinariwen have built a following despite difficult obstacles. Islamist extremists have attempted to ban music in the band's homeland of northern Mali, even kidnapping one of their members, Abdallah Ag Lamida. (He was released in 2013.) For safety reasons, Tinariwen had to record their latest album, Emmaar, in the U.S. It's a testament to their strength and artistry, and features collaborations with TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe and Nashville fiddler Fats Kaplin.
With the help of a translator, Isthmus chatted with Tinariwen's Eyadou Ag Leche about the group's musical journey.
Do you ever feel constrained by the expectation to speak for the Tuareg people as a whole?
We are very proud of spreading the message for our community.... Then people are free to find out the meaning of our lyrics or to take interest in our political beliefs. We first want people to enjoy our music. But our people's cause is essential to us.
Have you had chances to perform for Tuareg audiences recently? Is your approach different from when you're performing for American audiences?
We love playing in front of any audience.... Of course playing in front of our people is something special. It's been a long time.
What musicians inspire you? What else inspires you?
Our desert and ancestral Tamasheq poetry are our main inspiration. We listen to traditional Tuareg music from Mali, Niger, Mauritania. We like a lot of African artists such as Ali Farka TourÃ© and Fela Kuti. We listen to reggae.... Artists such as Jimi Hendrix, I feel [they share] a close connection to us. We listen also to American blues, like John Lee Hooker.
How has the political turmoil at home affected your music?
Our songs are about our ancestral culture, our life in the desert and themes such as love. They are also about...freedom and peace.