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Tinariwen: ‘Money Has Too Much Power in the World’

The famed Tuareg veteran folk rock band’s bassist Eyadou Ag Leche talks about touring, their India connection and misconceptions about their music

Anurag Tagat Nov 08, 2017

Tinariwen perform in Mumbai and Bengaluru this week. Photo: Marie Planeille

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On their latest album Elwan, which released earlier this year, desert troubadours Tinariwen sought the middle of the Moroccan desert for recording sessions. Bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, who’s been part of the evocative African group since the turn of the millennium, recalls the recording as “very comfortable.”

Grammy award-winning group Tinariwen, who have been active since 1979 and survived through years of strife, displacement and war in Mali, Algeria and Libya, are returning to India for two shows this week in Mumbai and Bengaluru. Eyadou cites everyone from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Pandit Jasraj as friends and influences and mentions Tinariwen’s collaboration with singer Kiran Ahluwalia (“Mustt Mustt”). He adds, “For sure we should have some common inspiration, with the desert style of life, for example! We love a lot about your music, but we do not know enough.”

When the world came to praise Tinariwen over the decades for their hypnotic, poetic style of bluesy folk rock, they picked up on their rough past. Eyadou concedes that a lot of coverage around the globe highlights the “conflict angle” and doesn’t cover “what we are doing now,” but adds, “But we prefer to speak about our music and our rules today as to find a reasonable way for our world and society. We have to exchange ideas about how to build the future together.”

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Regardless of how their story has been told by mainstream media, Eyadou says the band is “very happy how all audiences could feel the true, authentic way to be in life” with their music. But their goals continue to stretch out before them. Eyadou says they want “evolution from different governments to see a new essential politic” and how money has too much power in the world. “Some people have too much and other ones nothing! We have to share the technology and use that to develop our society intelligently, to look about the pollution problems before a big disaster (occurs).”

With two sold out shows at the Royal Opera House in Mumbai (November 8th) and The Humming Tree in Bengaluru (November 9th), Tinariwen are heading out on a month-long run of shows across Asia and Europe to promote Elwan. Eyadou mentions there’s a tour in Australia and a U.S. tour also set for 2018 with summer festivals. He says they’re already working on their next album, and doesn’t rule out a return to India. “Maybe we have to try your desert to feel the inspiration!”

Tinariwen India shows 2017 by Mixtape 

November 8th – Royal Opera House, Mumbai

November 9th – The Humming Tree, Bengaluru

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Watch the video for “Sastanaqqam” 

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