Rebel music is ensconced in the DNA of Malian nomad group Tinariwen. Started in the early 1980s as a band of drifter-turned-guerrilla musicians, this septet of African blues players is essentially a group of political refugees creating their own liberation anthems one note at a time. Alchemizing traditional Tuareg blues with West African, Middle Eastern, and psychedelic rock elements, Tinariwen speaks out for disenfranchised people struggling for rights and identity in the modern world. Their music is pure Bedouin artistry and steers clear of Afro-pop at every opportunity. But most American audiences have never heard of them, thus the release of their newest album Aman Iman
, which translates to "water is life," offers gringo listeners an introduction to Tinariwen's hypnotic guitar-laden sound and socio-political lyrics. Choice cuts include "
Matadjem Yinmixan" (Why All This Hate Between You?), "Assouf" (Longing), and the surging "Tamatant Tilay" (Death Is Here). The group's electric guitar licks and Tamashek-sung lyrics achieve a spaced out, trancelike quality that permeates deeper with each listen. Throw in some up-tempo Djembe drumming fused with rhythmic handclaps, and Aman Iman
becomes an album you can dance to, rock with, and be in awe of all at once. At one point, just owning one of their cassette tapes was deemed illegal by the Malian authorities, so consider yourself lucky and cop their new disc without fear of persecution.