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Wednesday, Jun 16 2010

The term "desert blues" is more than a little reductive, but it does at least begin to describe the sound of Tinariwen, a North African group of Tuareg tribespeople. Over bass and hand percussion in swaying, trancelike rhythms that threaten to go on for hours or days, bandleader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib's guitar lines sting like sand in the eyes. In a way, every Tinariwen tune is just a section of one endless song, telling a story of homesickness and displacement that is elemental to both the blues and the Tuareg culture. But this is no drab, eat-your-vegetables world music. The band counts Robert Plant and Henry Rollins among its diehard fans for a reason: It rocks.

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Phil Freeman

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