Tinariwen—the legendary GRAMMY-winning Tuareg collective—present their new single, ‘Kek Alghalm,’ from their forthcoming album, ‘Amatssou’, out May 19th on Wedge. Following lead single ‘Tenere Den,’ an “understated tribute to the desert and to the Tuareg revolution in the highlands of Mali” (WNYC), ‘Kek Alghalm’ opens ‘Amatssou’ as a call to the Tuareg tribes to unite against present threats, its lyrics calling out complicity in silence: “So where are the Touareg? // And why do they remain silent // In the face of so much disrespect // Perpetrated shamelessly with uncovered face.” Featuring Nashville’s Wes Corbett on banjo, ‘Kek Alghalm’ is a longtime live favourite amongst Tinariwen fans and it’s presented here in its recorded form for the first time.
Tinariwen, composed of founding members Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, Touhami Ag Alhassane and Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni, plus bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, percussionist Said Ag Ayad and guitarist Elaga Ag Hamid, single-handedly invented a guitar style that has captured the world’s imagination. They call it ishumar or assouf (“nostalgia” in Tamashek) but the rest of the world has come to know it as the Tuareg or desert blues. It is music that is imbued with sorrow and longing but it’s also music to dance to, to forget our cares.
Throughout ‘Amatssou’, the band’s ninth studio album, they set out to explore the shared sensibilities between their trademark desert blues and the vibrant country music of rural America. Recorded in Djanet, an oasis in the desert of southern Algeria located in Tassili N’Ajjer National Park, with additional production by Daniel Lanois (Brian Eno, U2, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Peter Gabriel, Willie Nelson), ‘Amatssou’ finds Tinariwen’s signature snaking guitar lines and hypnotic grooves seamlessly co-existing alongside banjos, fiddles and pedal steel. Lanois’ haunting pedal steel and crystalline production add a soaring ambience to Tinariwen’s trance-like desert blues.
For decades, Tinariwen have remained ambassadors for the Tuareg people, a way of life in tune with the natural world, which is under threat as never before. ‘Amatssou’ is Tamashek for “Beyond The Fear,” and it fits, as Tinariwen have always been characterized by their fearlessness. Though Tuareg culture is as old as that of ancient Greece or Rome, the songs of ‘Amatssou’ speak to the current and often tough reality of Tuareg life today. Unsurprisingly, there are impassioned references to Mali’s ongoing political and social turmoil. Full of poetic allegory, the lyrics call for unity and freedom. There are songs of struggle and resistance with oblique references to the recent desperate political upheavals in Mali and the increasing power of the Salafists. Tinariwen’s message has never sounded more urgent and compelling than it does on ‘Amatssou’.
Listen to Tinariwen’s new single ‘Kek Alghalm’ HERE.