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Tinariwen: Emmaar

by Dylan Owens on February 20, 2014

Though most of Emmaar is sung in Tamasheq, a language spoken in Tinariwen’s native Mali, the album opens with a sole phrase of English: “Walking through wind. Walking on water. Through a desert…Dancing through fire.” Paired with mesmerizing djembe rolls and a bluesy electric guitar vamp, it’s an enigmatic intro, ancient and bracing. While the Tamasheq will be indecipherable to many, Emmaar’s stinging West-African compositions are as knowable as their counterparts in the Mississippi Delta. Miraculously, the heat of Tinariwen’s music translates onto the record as well: They recorded Emmaar in Joshua Tree, Calif., as opposed to their home desert of the Sahara, and the hot grit of sand is somehow sonically palpable. Nuanced as any blues record, Emmaar evokes the band’s painful story while defiantly inviting the listener to dance through the same fire.

Authors: Dylan Owens
Artist: Tinariwen
Album: Emmaar
Label: ANTI-