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Tinariwen: Tiny Desk Concert

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19 min 52 sec

January 5, 2012 Even in a stripped-down acoustic formation, Tinariwen's trance-inducing desert music doesn't disappoint. Watch the Tuareg musicians don their beautiful, flowing robes for a stunning set in the NPR Music offices.

Tinariwen is my favorite electric-guitar-based band on the planet, so I was initially worried and disappointed when I learned that it was coming to play the Tiny Desk as a trio carrying acoustic guitars. My heart sank a bit more when the three Tuareg musicians from the Sahara arrived in jeans and polo shirts instead of the beautiful, flowing robes I'd seen them wear on stage so many times.

Concern turned to relief when they asked me for a place to change their clothes — and it took only a few notes on those acoustic guitars to remind me that Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley all conquered the acoustic guitar in stellar fashion.

So, too, did this stripped-down band from northern Mali, whose members met in the training camps of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. The music of two acoustic guitars and the rhythm of two hands striking a gourd — that clacking noise is the sound of a plastic cigarette lighter in the percussionist's hand — still holds the essence of the trance that attracts me. I was a fool to expect otherwise. So watch this Tiny Desk Concert as you may have watched Nirvana perform unplugged — as a complement to the band's essential electric work rather than a substitution.

Set List:
  • "Adounia"
  • "Takkest Tamidaret"
  • "Tenhert"
  • "Tahlamoyt"
Credits:

Michael Katzif, Cristina Fletes (cameras); edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Mallory Benedict/NPR

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