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Tinariwen Bring Their Sahara To Chicago

By Veronica Murtagh in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 17, 2010 7:30PM

Photo by Thomas Dorn
Non-Western rhythms have throughout music history shown up as influences in the work of American and European artists. The Beatles, Paul Simon, the Rolling Stones and Rusted Root all nodded to worldly locales from India to South Africa, at some point in their careers. Modern indie artists have followed suit, co-opting world music, particularly pan-African influences, in a recent fever that suggests a budding trend. Fool's Gold, jj, Tanlines, The Very Best and Vampire Weekend are some of the forerunners utilizing African percussion and instrumentation to infuse pop/rock with the exotic flavors of faraway lands.

But what happens when this faraway land isn't mystical, mysterious or exotic at all, and it's just the place you've always called home? Formed in rebel training camps in Libya, Tinariwen draw from their native Tuareg culture, their personal experiences and their love of American blues and guitar rock, offering a world-influenced palette, in reverse.

Once trading old Dylan and Marley cassettes, Tinariwen have turned to filesharing via cell phones and Bluetooth, with the hopes of exposing the Tuareg people to the music of the world at large while sharing their own Saharan desert culture. Tinariwen's music tells tales of change, the fight for social justice, life, love and loss in a place few of us will ever travel to. Through powerful, philosophically suggestive songwriting, and creative instrumentation, Tinariwen illustrate a homeland full of challenges, with hope.

Tinariwen are joined for a rare appearance with founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib for their Imidiwan: Companions album tour, Saturday, February 27, at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., 7 p.m. & 10 p.m., $24-$28 here