Regulars / Friday Mixtape

Friday Mixtape: Grammy award-winning Tinariwen curates a genre-crossing mix


Grammy award-winning band Tinariwen formed in 1979 in Tamanrasset, Algeria. During the 1990s the group returned to Mali, where its members originate, and in the early 2000s gained wider recognition outside of the Sahara desert region.

Throughout a career spanning almost 40 years, Tinariwen has consistently combined its West African roots with western guitar music. Founding member Ibrahim Ag Alhabibsaw watched The Fastest Guitar Alive as a child, in which Roy Orbison is a cowboy playing guitar with a gun. As a result, Ibrahim built a guitar from a tin can, a stick and a bicycle brake wire. Following the execution of his father during a 1963 uprising in Mali, he lived in refugee camps in Algeria where he was given a guitar from a local Arab man.

The group are considered to be “music’s true rebels”. In 1985 members of Tinariwen joined the Tuareg rebel movement in Libya, and formed a music collective, writing and performing songs about issues the Tuareg people faced. They built their own makeshift studio, vowing to record music for free and for anyone who gave them a blank cassette tape. Five years later in 1990 the Tuareg people of Mali revolted, and a peace agreement was reached in 1991. This allowed Tinariwen to fully devote its time to music.

Ten years later Tinariwen played at Glastonbury, Coachella and Womad, released worldwide and gained fans including Thom Yorke and Brian Eno. At this time the band, or rather collective, expanded to include younger Tuareg musicians including bassist Eyadou Ag Leche who has created this week’s mixtape.

Eyadou’s mix spans genres and the globe as well as displaying the evolving multi-generation collective that is Tinariwen.

Why have you picked these songs, what do they remind you of?

These songs showcase the links between Ishumar guitar, Malian blues and contemporary folk and rock music, including artists we have collaborated with like Kurt Vile and Mark Lanegan, label mate Cass McCombs, and Imarhan, whom we are really close to.

When or where should this mixtape be listened to?

It can be enjoyed in many different contexts, while driving your car or relaxing next to a fire…

What song or album did you listen to as a teenager?

Our musical background includes traditional Tuareg music, Tinde, along with other Tuareg styles based on the use of instruments like the imzad and the takamba. But also Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Fela Kuti and Bob Marley.

What song or album do you consistently play?

Alla, Foundou I et II

If a feature film about your life was to be made, what song would be on the trailer?

Tinariwen, Le Chant des Fauves