They won this year’s Grammy for Best World Music album. The Touareg group Tinariwen is currently on a world tour to promote its Tassili CD. VOA’s David Byrd caught up with the group when they visited Washington, D.C., and reports that the current turmoil in the group’s home country of Mali is never far from the band’s thoughts.
Grammy award winners Tinariwen brought their unique blend of traditional Touareg music and rock and roll to Howard Theater in the U.S. capital recently. The group – which hails from the Sahara region of northern Mali – is touring to support its Grammy-winning CD “Tassili.”
Bassist Eyadou Ag Leche says winning the Grammy brought the group new fans – and Touaregs new attention.
“In fact it’s a victory for all Touaregs, because we are Touareg,” he said. “It is a gift for the whole population. Now if you look at the list of World artists who won the Grammy, you find Tinariwen – Touaregs. So we’re very happy, but our life has changed because of the events in Mali,” he added.
“In fact it’s a victory for all Touaregs, because we are Touareg. It is a gift for the whole population. Now if you look at the list of world artists who won the Grammy, you find Tinariwen – Touaregs.
Tinariwen is touring without its founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who could not come because he lives in an area of conflict in northern Mali and had difficulties with his visa.
The group was born out of conflict – several of its founding members fought for Touareg independence before taking up music. During the Washington performance, Eyadou Ag Leche carried an Azawad flag on stage. Azawad is the area Touaregs claim in northern Mali.
Bass guitarist Eyadou Ag Leche says the trouble at home in Mali has inspired new music, including songs about the current conflict.
“So we are in the process of composing songs that talk about certain things: what we hope for the future of life in general for the two countries; for the two peoples today because there are some very sensitive points that we have to face honestly,” he said. “We are working on finding a way to deliver a message that can help find a definitive solution to the problem,” Eyadou added.
Eyadou says when the tour is over Tinariwen hopes to play in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and in Mauritania to help the Malian and Touareg refugees there. He said the group wants the refugees to know they are not forgotten.
On this night in Washington, the crowd was enjoying Tinariwen’s unique music, a medium the group hopes will help to change life for Touaregs – and others – very soon.
David Byrd is a journalist, writer, video editor and photographer. He is also the host of VOA's American Cafe, a weekly show covering life and culture in the United States.