Tinarwen Live in London
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Tinarwen
Live in London (DVD)
World Village (www.worldvillagemusic.com)

Other fine rock-and-blues-influenced Saharan guitar bands have followed in their wake (including Etran Finatawa, Toumast and Terakaft), but Tinariwen beat the rest to wider recognition and remain either the best of the bunch or the first among equals depending on how you look at it. Great though their albums are, Tinariwen also deliver in concert. I caught them live at the Houston International Festival in 2006, and they managed to do a lot with a little. Standing in an all but stock-still row on the stage and barely speaking between songs, they attracted a large and attentive crowd in remarkably short order with nothing but pure hypnotic guitar and bass riffs, sparse percussion and vocals that split the difference between Timbuktu and the Mississippi Delta.

Tinariwen - Assawt N'chet Tamashek (from Live DVD)

The group's new Live in London DVD similarly finds them making magic with the simplest of ingredients, though here the lineup is expanded to include female backup vocals (which they didn't have on their '06 U.S. jaunt), a guest turn by Justin Adams (the versatile U.K. guitarist and producer who helped bring Tinariwen to the attention of the world) and of course production values including cameras zooming in on the little nuances that make the music all the more persuasive. By and large, though, the presentation of the concert portion of the DVD is as simple as the music, so the featured songs from Tinariwen's three albums get by unassumingly and brilliantly on the strength of indomitable Touareg spirit, non-indulgent guitar mastery and spellbinding, repetitive rhythms.

This would be enough to make this release a must-have, but consider the bonus material as well. There's a lengthy interview with band founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, conducted by a desert campfire at night, in which he speaks in riveting detail about the hardships of post-colonial Mali and how he embraced music to overcome them. A shorter interview with Adams and a mini-documentary provide further elucidation as to the band's origins, outlook and creativity. It all makes for a combination of music and imagery that provides nothing glossy or clever in the way of visuals, yet scores an absolute knockout in presenting what Tinariwen does best and the story behind it. - Tom Orr

DVD available from cdRoots

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CD available from cdRoots

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