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Robert Plant favourites Tinariwen still mesmerise on reissued albums

Proof that even the desert does anniversary reissues, as Tinariwen's haunting breakthrough albums The Radio Tisdas Sessions and Amassakoul get a polish

Tinariwen: The Radio Tisdas Sessions cover art
(Image: © Wedge)

As musical myths go, there aren't many better than those that accompanied Tinariwen's journey into the limelight at the beginning of the century. Led by fearsome Tuareg warrior Ibrahim Ag Alhabibm, it appeared as if they rode forth from the Northern Sahara carrying Kalashnikovs and Stratocasters and straight onto the stage at the Barbican, with Robert Plant standing by to proclaim their greatness.

It was Plant's guitarist Justin Adams who produced the band's first "proper" album - their tapes had been traded in Saharan markets for years – but The Radio Tisdas Sessions and the following Amassakoul did at least allow Western audiences to make sense of it all.

This isn't the desert blues of Ali Farke Touré, but something more shamanic, more mystical, more mesmerising. For Tinariwen's music shares its magic with some of the nomadic music of Central Asia, with that same sense of space and big sky. It's extraordinarily evocative, somehow conjuring up images of the landscape from which it sprang, of heavily scented souk air at dusk and dancing desert embers. 

Two previously unreleased tracks – Ham Tinahghin Ane Yallah on the first album and Taskiwt Tadjat on the second – don't add much to the package, but more of the same is no bad thing.

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 36 years in music industry, online for 23. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.