On its new album, Emmaar, Tuareg group Tinariwen makes music to get lost in. Songs center on just a few chords, with bristling, shimmering blues guitars bringing depth and direction. Hand claps and percussion power the proceedings, and no-nonsense vocals in Tamasheq top it off. Focused and hypnotic, the sounds wash over you and around you; for as long as the music plays, you’re a part of Tinariwen’s world.
Formed in Saharan Mali in the ’80s, Tinariwen broke through in 2001 with The Radio Tisdas Sessions. Exactly ten years later, Tassili, which featured Americans like TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone, won a Grammy for Best World Music Album. Emmaar includes some U.S. friends too—spoken-word artist Saul Williams contributes a few lines, for instance. But this is not an album that derives its strength from guests. It’s simply a force of nature.—Brad Farberman
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