The Grammy award-winning Tuareg musicians Tinariwen are still a desert band, only certain aspects of which the western music industry can ever hope to capture and present. Tinariwen existed long before any of their albums were recorded and their existence is still quite distinct from their discographic dimension. So, the best Tinariwen album doesn’t exist. But it’s still worth trying to go and find it.
Now, Tinariwen have released their ninth studio album Amadjar. Recorded in southern Morocco outside of an old camper van, the band was on a journey to Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania, which takes a dozen days or so. Every evening, the caravan stopped to set up camp and the members of Tinariwen get to work under the stars – a whole lot better than being in a studio after all – to prepare for the recording, talking things through, letting their guitar motifs, thoughts and long buried songs come. Then, during a final camp in the desert around Nouakchott that lasts about fifteen days, to an audience of scorpions, the band record their songs under large tent. In a few live takes, without headphones or effects.
Once the members of Tinariwen had finished recording, a host of Western musicians added instrumentation to the record including violin from Warren Elllis of the Bad Seeds, mandolin and charango courtesy of Micah Nelson, and guitars from Stephen O’Malley (Sunn O)))), Cass McCombs and Rodolphe Burger. This nomadic album, recorded in a natural setting, is as close as you can get to the ‘soul’ of Tinariwen, a group of musicians that in every sense exist far-beyond their 17-year tenure and extensive discography of critically acclaimed albums.