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Friday August 19th

'Simplicity is freedom': Grammy Award-winning band Tinariwen to headline at Cat's Cradle

Tinariwen will perform at Cat's Cradle on Sept. 18. Photo courtesy of Marie Planeille.
Buy Photos Tinariwen will perform at Cat's Cradle on Sept. 18. Photo courtesy of Marie Planeille.

Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, the founder of the band Tinariwen, witnessed as a child the execution of his father during a Tuareg uprising.

Tinariwen was formed in the Sahara desert of northern Mali and count Robert Plant, Bono, Carlos Santana and Thom Yorke amongst their fans and collaborators.

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, this Grammy Award-winning band will be playing at Cat’s Cradle.

"They’re so cool to watch, I just love them," said Bill Smith, former chef at Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill and one of the the founders of Cat's Cradle.

Tinariwen received offensive Facebook comments and death threats after The Ramkat put up a social media post for the band’s concert on Sept. 17 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

According to a press release by the band, the music they play "can become like the fire, free, magical and impossible to stuff into a box."

The lyrics of Tinariwen's music span several African dialects including French, Arabic and Tuareg.

“It’s hard not to dance in place, know what I mean? You don’t dance with somebody, but it’s hard to be still, and I don’t speak Arabic — a lot of their songs are in Arabic or Tuareg — so it’s not the words I’m responding to, it's the rhythm and the vibe," Smith said.

The lyrics of some of Tinariwen songs include descriptions of the Sahara desert. The name of Tinariwen's latest album is Amadjar, which means 'the unknown visitor' in Tamashek, or 'the one who seeks hospitality and who's condemned to an inner exile, within a territory or within himself.'

“Well you should always see something you don’t know, that you’re unfamiliar with," Smith said. "That’s a rule of life, you should always check out new music."

Minna Banawan, a senior double majoring in psychology and English, said she hasn’t even listened to Tinariwen's music yet, but is planning on going to the show. 

“West African music is kind of where (the Blues) evolved from, and I don’t mind the Blues," Banawan said. "I just like finding new artists and going to new shows. I try to go to shows I haven’t heard of before at least once a year."

Tinariwen’s music is played on pop radio stations in Europe and Africa, and that caused them to be targeted by Islamic extremists in Mali. 

 "We don’t have a mission,” said Eyadou Ag Leche, guitarist and vocalist for Tinariwen. "We are a Tuareg musical band from the Sahara. Our lyrics talk about the Tuareg issue since the Independence of Mali and about our lives and traditions, but also about love and nostalgia of the old days when the borders in the Sahara were not existing."

While Eyadou Ag Leche said that the band hasn’t heard of the song, “Carolina In My Mind,” they are very much looking forward to sharing their music with UNC students. 

"This is always a good experience to discover music from other countries, other cultures," said Leche. "We hope that the UNC students will enjoy the show.” 

Tinariwen's lyrics include themes of self-reliance, community, and minimalism.

“Simplicity is freedom," Leche said.


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