The Band Tinariwen


Band Tinariwen is a group composed of musicians from Mali specifically the northern part. The group was first formed in Algeria in 1979 where they stayed for some time and later returned to their original homeland in Mali. The founders of the band were a group of tuaregs whose key goal was rebelling government activities which in their view were similar to those of colonizers. At first, the group was composing a rebel-like sort of music.


The group was later known in other parts of Africa after changing their target audience. Here, they started composing songs on various aspects of life. With the release of “Aman Iman” in 2007, the group gained popularity internationally (Rasmussen, 2016). This piece of paper seeks to discuss about the band Tinariwen by exploring the ways in which the band was shaped by culture through conflicts, and also the ways in which their music fits into the culture.

The start of the band inspired by the activities of the government through which they were controlling the activities of the tuaregs in the deserts. Ibrahim was the founder of this band. At first, he composed a song attacking the criticizing the government for the action of assassinating his father (Morgan, 2013). During the time when his father was assassinated, Ibrahim was a very young boy.

In composing his song, the grown up young man was very right on that. Things later happened in the same way as Ibrahim had stated in his song. The founding members of band Tinariwen together with other tuaregs met in a training camp in Libya. This process was organized by Qaddafi, the president of Libya as at that time. It was in Libya where members started recruiting into the new band.

After undergoing a series of training sessions, the group returned into Mali. Tinariwen members also joined their friends in these fights. As time went by, the members of the Tinariwen opted to leave the wars and pick up their guitars. By using guitars, they were to support their friends by a way of creating awareness on the need to have their culture preserved. Songs composed by these bands spread all through the desert by a way of hand to hand in which a member of the tuareg group passed it to his/her friend (Rasmussen, 2016).

According to Rasmussen, (2016), a song by name “Tamatant Tilay” was composed by a member of band Tinariwen in 1983. This band urged the tuaregs to pick up their weapons and kill their enemies as it will make them the kings of the plains. As it went with the lyrics of the song, a lot of blood was shed in the course of this war. For the parts that were affected by these fights, only remains of cassettes containing the recorded pieces of music were found.

Another song to prove that this band was motivated by conflicts happening in Mali is seen in a song called “Chet Boghassa”. This is seen in the fact that Abdallah made a promise that he will take back one of their villages which was under the captivity of the army. Ibrahim stated that he had very difficult times when they were rebelling. He also adds that singing acted as a source of therapy in that it made him forget about the death of his father. He uses the term “fire” to represent these occurrences. In the song, Ibrahim said that the fire burnt for quite long where it ended up consuming their friends and animals (Schaefer, 2011).

The government together with the rebels signed a peace treaty in 1992. This brought the tuaregs’ fighting days to an end. In the years that followed, the government made attempts to separate the tuaregs through factionalism and tribalism. In response to this, the band Tinariwen composed a song by name “Toumast”. Preaching about unity was the goal aimed at in the composition of the song. In the song, they told others that they will never attain their goal if they continue being divided (Rasmussen, 2016).

Another song, “Tenalle Chegret” was composed some several years later. It talked about how the war they had started long time ago finally came to a sort of confusion. The words used in this song played very key roles in initiating the current rebellion.

Tinariwen music fits perfectly in the culture of Mali. The culture advocates for music which is an essential pillar for communicating various messages to the people. Music has been used by the Mali people from the past to pass important message and as a way of entertainment. With the country having various ethnic groups, music has been a unifying factor. From the time of the great Mali Empire, music was sang to the kings as a way of entertainment (Morgan, 2013).

Music was seen as an important aspect of the Mali culture. This makes the Tinariwen music important to the Mali culture in general. The music style done by Tinariwen involves using males to perform the instruments and a woman on the vocals. This is the traditional style with the Mali people.

Traditionally, music involved males and females with females singing and males performing the instruments. This means that Tinariwen has not dropped the Mali culture and thus it has helped cement the culture in the society. It’s one of the ways through which people fit in the culture. People having the knowledge of the Mali culture will be able to identify them as part of the culture.
With most of the Mali people being Muslims, the dress code of the members of the Tinariwen band cements their identity as Muslims.

This is another way the Tinariwen band fits in the Mali culture. It’s a way of representing the Mali culture (Schaefer, 2011). The dress code goes well with the Mali culture in general. It would have been a bit difficult to get on well with the Muslims in Mali by not dressing as Muslims. To them, it’s a way of becoming art of the Mali culture. Dress code is one of the important identifying figures of the Islamic community and the Mali culture in general.

When performing in other countries, it’s easy to identify them with the Mali culture having the knowledge of the culture in the country. A citizen of the county in other countries will easily identify them as part of the Mali culture by just looking at their dress code at stage (Morgan, 2013).

The instruments used by the Tinariwen to do their performances fit perfectly with the Mali culture. In history, the………..

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