Saturday, March 31, 2007


Venue:The Arches, Glasgow, 29th March 2007

Beneath the bridge that comprises Glasgow’s Central Station lie a series of arches, a stretch of which have long been a venue for theatre, live music and clubs. It is here that “the biggest in world music of the moment” took to the stage on Thursday night. With no support, the first member of Tinariwen takes to the stage the back of 8, and he sings a solo song, just him and his guitar. After that the rest of the band join him - 8 people stood on stage, 7 men and a woman - 8 vocalists , at times 4 guitarists, a bassist and a percussionist.

Tinariwen translates as the Tamashek word for “empty places”, the language of the Tuareg nomads of the Sahara desert, of Mali. The band appear on stage in full Taureg dress, robes and headdresses, the men for the most part with veiled faces. Formed in 1982, the band came out of detainment camps for Tuareg rebels, their music is primarily a protest music, sung in French and Tamashek the band sing for independence from the government of Mali, and they are apparently the first Tuareg band to use electric guitars.

The band play for about an hour. The lead vocals switching from person to person according to the track, as do the number of guitarists. The sound is incredibly laid back, an African hybrid of blues and rock, the voices layer with the guitars, and the rhythms of the percussionist sat at the front of the stage with his white veil in place throughout. Even though the music is easy going it has a distinct energy, partly from the density of the sound, partly from the sheer number of people on stage, partly because the crowd are with the band - there are those that close their eyes and let the music sweep across them like grains of sand across dunes, and others who bounce about filled with warmth and energy.

After an hour the band take a 20 minute break, before returning to play a second set of a similar length. Throughout the night the vocals mix, the voice of the woman coming through surprisingly clearly amongst all those men, the rhythms of the words punctuated by periodic ululations of her voice yelping. Various members of the band let the music take them, and they dance, slow ritual motions, the threat of become twirling that never comes for space forbids, building to points where the bassist and one of the guitarists bounce up and down in punk tribal enthusiasm. The crowd roars with enthusiasm in the end, the sound contained and amplified it seems by the brick arches.

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