Sound ‘Round: Tinariwen / Paris

Song from Paris, songs by Paris

Tinariwen – Live in Paris (ANTI-)

tinariwen live in parisTheir band name loosely translates to “desert,” as in the Sahara where most of the world’s 1.2 million Tuaregs call home. This band of musicians comes from northern Mali and fled the country during a violent Islamist uprising in 2012 which sought Tuareg statehood. The performance presented here capped a 130-date tour and was recorded at the Bouffes du Nord a year before the vicious attack at the nearby Bataclan theater. Each song is centered on a droning bass note upon which they stack polyrhythms aplenty and guitar riffs so rich and enduring you rightly forget The Black Keys were ever a thing. Before a multi-ethnic and multi-religious audience, they relay the virtues of peace for their war-torn homeland and humanity at large. There’s nary a word of English to be found, but this Westerner picks up on their deft melodicism and steadfast rhythms which match their convictions. Yes, they’re Muslim. Yes, they command your respect in the same way they respect women — an ISIS no-no. They practice what they preach by inviting 75-year-old percussionist Lalla Badi to tag along and give one of the most stirring vocal performances of the year. Though her arid alto is withered by age, she resonates more in three minutes than Adele does on three albums. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Toumast Tincha” / “Imidiwan Ahi Sigidam” / “Tinde Tinariwnen”

Paris – Pistol Politics (Guerilla Funk)

paris pistol politicsOscar Jackson Jr. is such a political iconoclast his firebrand rhymes caused his label to ditch him during the early 90s. Disenfranchised and broke, he swapped hustling behind the mic for hustling stocks near the turn of the millennium. With enough cash from his adult job to fund a renewed interest in music, he returns during the age of Black Lives Matter with a double disc of venom directed at the perpetrators of social injustice and economic cronyism. He rips America for leading “the world in only three categories: number of characters locked up, number of grown folks who believe angels are real, and defense spending.” Then he blasts Obama for being no better than Bush regarding income inequality and the unjust use of military force. Not every track is concerned with hell fire. At 90 minutes, there’s plenty of songs which envision an inner-city utopia, none better than “Give the Summer Drum,” which comes with the hopeful quip, “I’m not talking about murdering blacks, I’m talking about encouraging blacks.” Despite aiming his lyrical barbs at large targets, he never forgets the lives affected by the powers at be. “Murder Suit,” isn’t about overthrowing the government. It’s about a funeral suite for another friend gone too soon. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Murder Suit” / “Give the Summer Drum” / “Change We Can Believe In”

This article appeared in the Dec. 18, 2015 edition of The Monitor

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