Ambition Festival event review: Tinariwen plays at the Fairfield Halls, Thursday 23rd July

By - Wednesday 5th August, 2015

Anne Giles rocks the Tuareg desert blues

Photo author’s own.

My husband Steve and I went to this event at the Fairfield Halls on 23rd July on the opening day of Croydon’s Ambition Festival. The support act was King Size Slim, a heavyweight acoustic band, led by Toby Barelli, winner of the inaugural Emerging Artist Award sponsored by Blues in Britain magazine. The audience loved him, which I suppose was just a matter of taste, because we couldn’t really make it out at all. I did think that the drummer was very good, though. Perhaps we are getting old!

Then the main act came on – Tinariwen. We have seen the group twice before. These Tuareg desert blues rockers come from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali and have built a global following which has seen them win a world music Grammy award, perform at the World Cup opening ceremony and support the Rolling Stones.

“Is it OK?” And we all shouted – “YES!”

The line-up consists of six men, playing electric and acoustic guitars, bass and hand drum. The drummer also had a most unusual looking drum in the shape of a large ball. There were two main vocalists, with the others joining in the choruses.

I think that I would describe Tinariwen’s music as mixture of rock and Arabic-style chanting. One of the songs sung by the main singer sounded as though he was rattling the words off even faster than the instruments. He performed a rap song in a similar style later in the show, which was exceptionally good. Most of the songs were in a language which I believe is Bambara (the most commonly spoken language in Mali, other than French) but there was some French also. There was certainly audience participation: the lead singer kept coming up to the front and asking the audience: “Is OK?” to which we all shouted “YES!”

His hands twisted hypnotically with the rhythm

Photo author’s own.

The group appears in beautiful traditional clothing – long-sleeved colourful robes and headscarves, almost covering their mouths, though a couple of them kept their mouths covered and still managed to sing through the material! One member in particular never seemed to stop dancing, with his arms away from his body, while his hands and wrists twisted with the rhythm and his whole body bounced back and forth; it had a hypnotic quality.

For the finale there were strobe lights flashing, the dancing man danced along the length of the stage and we were all shouting for more. Of course there was an encore – first the main singer on his own, then the band joined in and by this time the audience was standing, clapping along and some of us were dancing.

I honestly think that it was the best performance that we have ever seen them do. I hope that they come back soon!

Anne Giles

Anne Giles

I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of an Anglo-Argentine mother and English father. I went to an English school and worked for a British company out there before coming to live in the U.K. I spent many years teaching Spanish in adult education in various centres in Croydon Borough and have got to know so many different areas – North and South. We have been living in Selsdon since 1989 and I love it. I feel passionately about Croydon and have spent many years writing blogs – firstly for the Croydon Advertiser, then the Croydon Guardian, and eventually my own blog entitled “The Good Life in Croydon”. I am very much involved in the community, attending regular meetings with the Croydon Community Police Consultative Group and am also a member of the British Transport Police PACT (Police & Community Together) Team.

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  • Elizabeth

    I believe they are singing in Tamashek which is the language of the Tuareg people or Kel Tamashek. It is not Bambera.