Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tinariwen Record New Album In Sahara Desert

In what's surely a first in the annals of rock & roll, Malian Tuareg guitar-slingers Tinariwen recorded the entirety of their new album, Imidiwan: Companions deep in the Sahara desert.

Scheduled for Stateside release on October 13th on the Harmonia Mundi/World Village label, Imidiwan is the band's fourth album, and their first new release since 2007's Aman Iman. The desert rockers will support the release with a North American tour in 2010 (see dates below).

The recording of Imidiwan took place in Tessalit, Mali, an oasis in the vastness of the Southern Sahara that's been a refuge for the Tuareg people for generations. Though the group famously recorded its first album, 2002's The Radio Tisdas Sessions in a solar-powered studio in the nearby town of Kidal, Tinariwen's more recent work has all been recorded in big city studios in Mali and Europe. So Tinariwen enlisted French engineer Jean-Paul Romann—who worked with them during those first recording sessions—to get about as back to basics as possible.

Romann set up a studio in Tessalit, using a small house in the middle of the desert as a base of operations to capture Tinariwen in situ—sometimes even recording in the rocky valleys and windswept plateaus of the wilderness surrounding Tessalit. Following the lead of Tinariwen founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, Romann captured the band's sound in places Ibrahim and other members had discovered over the course of many years playing in the desert, capturing a vibe that Romann feels is "just in the air" of this corner of the Sahara.

The result is an album drenched in Tuareg authenticity and the high lonesome spirit of the desert that the nomads call "assuf"—a nearly untranslatable world in the Tamashek language that is nevertheless instantly recognizable in every hynoptic chant and every heartbreatking minor chord on Imidiwan.


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