Tinariwen’s founder, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, watched the execution of his father, a rebel in the 1963 Mali uprising. A few years later he found musical inspiration in a film, The Fastest Guitar Alive, starring Roy Orbison as a cowboy whose guitar shot bullets. He founded Tinariwen in 1979, playing traditional Berber music shot through with other influences, including rock and roll.
The ever-shifting lineup, which took home a Grammy for their 2011 album Tassili, comes to Belly Up on March 30. Speaking through translator Bastien Gsell, bassist Eyadou Ag Leche and guitarist Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni took questions from Berlin.
...off of the album Elwan by Tinariwen
How do you find strength and resilience in the midst of war and instability most Americans can’t comprehend?
Eyadou Ag Leche: “The geopolitical problems in our region, Azawad, in northern Mali, are not new. So our band is used to going into and coming out of unsafe areas. For us who need to travel for the tour, of course, we regularly take certain extra precautions!
“With Tinariwen, always, we hold out hope for peace. With our musical poetry, we’re trying to discuss our situation in the world.”
What were your most powerful musical influences?
Eyadou Ag Leche: “[Berber] tradition, of course! Forty years ago we picked up our first guitars, and we brought them to the desert around the fire. And then, everywhere else around the planet.”
Where did you record the current album Elwan?
Eyadou Ag Leche: “The principal sessions happened in Morocco, at M’Hamid El Ghizlane, in a friend’s encampment, called ‘Le Petit Prince.’ In the middle of an oasis surrounded by dunes. Perfect ambiance in the middle of nowhere. But every day was different, sand blowing the wind and so-cold nights....
- Thursday, March 30, 2017, 8 p.m.
Belly Up Tavern,
143 S. Cedros Avenue,
$25 - $44
“Also we worked on the side, with some songs recorded at Joshua Tree, the famous Rancho De La Luna studios, to send out to friends we met, and they added parts. A perfect artistic collaboration from our point of view!”
What’s the band’s take on President Trump and his travel bans? Is the band afraid of not being able to come back to America?
Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni: “We’re eager to see all of our American fans! We do not think we’ll have any problem, as we are not looking for any trouble.
“Only respect for different points of view will bring peace in the world. On this we trust.”