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Concert Preview: Tinariwen at Brooklyn Masonic Temple

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When Tinariwen plays in Brooklyn, it’s a big deal for us at Afropop, as it should be for anyone in this borough who likes incredible live guitar playing. So we are very excited  that the northern Malian band is playing at Brooklyn Masonic Temple tonight, Nov. 10. Tinariwen will be performing as part of Antithesis, an event presented by WFUV, Le Poisson Rouge and Anti Records, and curated by superstar producer Daniel Lanois. Lanois, who has worked with Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Brian Eno, will also be playing a set, along with Brooklyn indie band the Antlers and outsider artist-turned-experimental soul singer Lonnie Holley.

By now you probably know (at least some of) the legend of Tinariwen–from leader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib constructing his own guitar from a tin can and bicycle wire, to the band members fighting against the Malian army, to the infusion of Tuareg traditional music with Hendrix and Zeppelin-influenced electric guitar, and the spawning of a legion of northern Malian guitar disciples. More recently, the band was forced to leave their land (Azawad, as it known by the Tuareg) due to the conflict that pitted Tuareg independence fighters against Islamists and the Malian army, and led to the French intervention called Opération Serval. One of Tinariwen’s guitarists, Abdallah Ag Lamida, was kidnapped (and thankfully, eventually released) by Islamists during this period of chaos, and the band relocated to the Joshua Tree desert of California where they recorded the superb album Emmaar, issued in February.

Last month, Tinariwen released Inside/Outside Joshua Tree Sessions, an EP of acoustic tracks recorded while they were working on Emmaar. As with so much of Tinariwen’s music, Inside/Outside features guitars interlocking to create a sound of uniquely hypnotic power. Although known for their electric chops, going acoustic doesn’t make this album any less compelling. Instead, it creates an intimacy well suited for this period of displacement in Tinariwen’s storied career.

You can check out Tinariwen’s electric side in the new video for “Arhegh Danagh,” a track from Emmaar, which shows the band performing with the sands of Joshua Tree as their backdrop. The song is a stunner and, as the video shows, the band looks as stylish and confident as ever.

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