Music & Concerts — February 15, 2014 at 12:09 am

March 22, 2014Tinariwen performs at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue


February 11, 2014

CONTACT: Brenda Kean Tabor (202) 533-1886


Grammy Award-winning desert band Tinariwen performs at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 8pm

British Afro-folk-pop ensemble The Melodic opens the concert


Washington, D.C. – Winner of the 2011 Grammy for Best World Music Album, Tinariwen, featuring Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali, will perform at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on March 22 following the February release of their latest album, Emmaar, which includes Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist, JoshKlinghoffer, Chavez guitarist/singer Matt Sweeney, Nashville fiddler Fats Kaplin, and poet Saul Williams. Rolling Stone described the album as, “ Impressively, an undiluted Tinariwen LP that’s all circular Afro-Berber riffs, hypnotic hand claps, sun, sky and sand,” adding “With Tinariwen’s members effectively refugees thanks to regional conflicts back home in North Africa, their blues are as deep as ever.” The Melodic, a British afro-pop ensemble frequently compared to the Decembrists opens the evening.

Variously described by Songlines as “the most compelling of any band” and as “the most rock ‘n’ roll of them all” by The Irish Times, the Tinariwen sound is primarily guitar-driven in the style known as assouf  among the Tuareg people. This has its roots in West African music from the “great bend” region along the Niger River, between Timbuktu and Gao. The core elements of Tinariwen’s music are traditional Tuareg melodies and rhythms featuring the shepherd’s flute (primarily a man’s instrument) and the one-stringed fiddle (generally played by women). The primary percussion instrument is the tindé drum. Another important traditional influence is a lute known as the teherdent, which is played by the griots of the Gao and Timbuktu regions. In the late 1970s, when the founding members of Tinariwen started playing acoustic guitars, they played a traditional repertoire adapted to the western guitar.

Other regional influences include Berber music from northern Algeria, especially radical Kabyle singers; the pop sounds of electrified rai music of Algeria; Algerian pop singers like Rabah Driassa; radical Chaabi protest music of Moroccan pop groups like Nass El Ghiwane and Lemchaheb with their lute and mandol riffs; the classical pop of Egypt; Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Carlos Santana, Dire Straits, Jimi Hendrix, Boney M, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and even Bollywood music. The group has also been influenced by traditional Malian musicians, including Ali Farka Toure.

Tinariwen was founded by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who at age four had witnessed the execution of his father, a Tuareg rebel, during a 1963 uprising in Mali. Alhabib built his own guitar out of a tin can, a stick and bicycle brake wire after seeing a cowboy playing a guitar in a western movie, and began to play Tuareg music and modern Arabic pop tunes. After living in Algerian refugee camps, Alhabib was given his first acoustic guitar by a local Arab man. In the late 1970s Alhabib joined other musicians in the Tuareg rebel community, forming a group with Inteyeden Ag Ablil, his brother Liya, Ag Ablil, and Hassan Ag Touhami, to play at parties and weddings in the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset. They acquired their first acoustic guitars in 1979. While the group had no official name, people began to call them Kel Tinariwen, which in the Tamashek language translates as “The People of the Deserts” or “The Desert Boys.”

In 1980 and 1985, Alhabib and his bandmates joined the military and Tuareg rebel movements based in Libya, where they met fellow musicians Keddou Ag Ossade, Mohammed Ag Itlale (aka “Japonais”), Sweiloum, Abouhadid, and Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni, formed the collective now known as Tinariwen and began to record songs about the issues facing the Tuareg people. The resulting homemade cassettes were traded widely throughout the Sahara region.

The collective left Libya in 1989 and moved to Mali, where some Tinariwen members briefly became rebel fighters before devoting themselves to music full-time. In 1992, some of Tinariwen members went to Côte d’Ivoire to record a cassette at JBZ studios. They also played occasional gigs for far-flung Tuareg communities throughout the Sahara region, gaining word-of-mouth popularity.

In 1998, Tinariwen came to the attention of the French world music ensemble Lo’Jo and in 1999, members of Tinariwen traveled to France to perform with the group under the name Azawad. The two groups organized the January 2001 Festival of the Desert in Mali with Tinariwen as the headliners. By the end of 2001, Tinariwen had performed at WOMAD, Roskilde, and the South Bank in London. Their debut CD, The Radio Tisdas Sessions, was released in 2001, becoming Tinariwen’s first recording to be released beyond northern Africa.

Since 2001 Tinariwen, the Tinariwen collective has added several younger Tuareg musicians who have contributed to the collective’s multi-generational evolution. They have played over 700 concerts in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia, including Glastonbury, Coachella and Roskilde festivals, among others. Their 2004 CD Amassakoul  (“The Traveler” in Tamashek) and its 2007 follow-up Aman Iman (“Water Is Life”) were released worldwide and gained the attention of such celebrity fans as Carlos Santana, Robert Plant, Bono and the Edge of U2; Thom Yorke of Radiohead and Chris Martin of Coldplay. In 2005, Tinariwen received a BBC Award for World Music, and in 2008 they were awarded Germany’s prestigious Praetorius Music Prize.

In 2010, Tinariwen represented Algeria in the opening ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The group played 24 performances in the U.S. in 2010 and has appeared on the The Colbert Report.

A co-presentation with Sixth & I Historic Synagogue

WPAS performances at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue are made possible by the Abramson Family Foundation and by an anonymous gift in appreciation of Douglas Wheeler’s continuing efforts on behalf of WPAS.

Funded in part by the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, an agency supported in part by

National Endowment for the Arts.

WPAS is committed to making every event accessible for persons with disabilities. Please call the WPAS Ticket Services Office for more information on accessibility to the various theaters in which our performances are held.  Services offered vary from venue to venue and may require advance notice.

About WPAS

Since 1965, Washington Performing Arts Society has had a foundational role in the arts in our nation’s capital, creating profound opportunities that connect community and artists, in both education and performance. Through live events in 11 venues that criss-cross the D.C. metropolitan area, the careers of emerging artists are launched and nurtured, and established artists return to develop closer relationships with WPAS audiences and creative partners.

As one of the leading presenters in the nation, Washington Performing Arts Society embraces a broad spectrum of the performing arts, including classical music, jazz, gospel, contemporary dance and music, international music and art forms, and new work.  Dynamic education programs in the public schools and beyond are hallmarks of WPAS, as are WPAS’s Embassy Adoption Program and two resident gospel choirs.

In the 2012–13 season, WPAS was twice honored for its work at the intersection of arts presenting and education: by President Barack Obama with a National Medal of Arts (becoming only the fourth D.C.-based arts group and the first arts presenter of its kind to be so honored), and the Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Service to the Arts.