From: Azawad, Mali

Sounds Like: Sahara Desert Blues

Tinariwen is a Grammy-winning ensemble of Tuareg (desert nomads) musicians who have been around since the 80s when the founding members met at a Tuareg camp in Libya. The band was inspired by western music, especially old American blues and Jimi Hendrix, and they fused the “sound of the city” with the sound of their desert heritage. The music is blues, but there’s layers of space that you can hear in the music that reflects their desert home of North Africa.

The band sounds great, but you should know Tinariwen because they might be one of the most badass bands around. Now I hate using the word “badass” to describe a band, so let me explain:

-The band took a break from music when they volunteered to fight against a corrupt Mali government for Tuareg independence during revolution time.

-Founding member Ibrahim Ag Alhabib built his first guitar from a bicycle wire, a stick, and a tin can.

-Their list of collaborators include guitar-wiz Nels Cline, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, and TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe.

-They recorded their 2011 Tassili in a tent in the middle of the Algerian Desert (literally, a tent).

-Right before the band was about to record their latest album, 2014’s excellent Emmaar, a Islamic extremists in Mali accused the band of making “Satan’s music” and they captured and imprisoned band leader Abdallah Ag Lamida while the rest of the band managed to escape to the United States. To kill time before Lamida was released, the band recorded Emmaar Joshua Tree, CA, an American desert that made the band feel right at home.

…Yeah, this band is badass.

Check out “Toumast Tincha” below, which is off Emmaar.

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