Tinariwen, who are touring Australia in April, first became known abroad at the initial Festival of the Desert in Mali in 2001, now an annual event. This was also the year it started travelling to Europe. Until then its music was for Tuaregs across the Sahara, an outlet during their resistance struggle, when forced by drought into exile in Libya or south-eastern Algeria in the 1970s.
Tinariwen is a seven-piece band led by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, a Tuareg musician who invented the Tamashek electric guitar sound. The "desert blues" music may sound modern, but the tunes have very ancient roots in pre-Islamic Africa, even before the first century AD.
The lyrics, written by poets of the Sahara, describe the pain of exile, the longing for lost homes and families, and the struggle for political and cultural freedom.
The group's website says: "Tinariwen are guitar-poets from the southern Sahara desert. They are icons of freedom and resistance among their own people, the nomadic Tuareg of the Sahara. The word Tinariwen is the plural of tenere, which simply means desert in Tamashek, the language of the Tuareg."
This popular world music ensemble has played at many festivals around the world and won the BBC World Music Award in 2005. Get a taste at http://www.myspace.com/tinariwen.
Best known to Australians through its albums, Radio Tisdas, Amassakoul and Aman Iman: Water is Life, we now have the chance to hear it live.
[Tinariwen's Australian tour starts at Hamer Hall, Melbourne Arts Centre, St Kilda Road on Wednesday April 8 at 8pm. Free activities prior to the performance from 6.30pm. Bookings with Ticketmaster or at the venue. Tickets: $41-$73, or $30 for people 26 years and under.
Tinariwen concludes its Australian tour at the Sydney Opera House on April 13. In between it will feature at the Byron Bay Bluesfest.