It has long been acknowledged that an appreciation of the tale behind the emergence of desert blues rebel-rockers Tinariwen adds a piquancy to their already highly appealing music, so a visual package that complements their three excellent albums, which captures the band at their animated best whilst simultaneously filling out their ‘back story’, is most welcome.
The image of guitarist and founder member Ibrahim Ag Alhabib dominates the cover of this DVD, towering over his band just as his story towers over the band's gestation. An hour-long al fresco fireside chat with Tinariwen manager Andy Morgan sets out Ibrahim’s extraordinary journey, from the death of his father in the first Tuareg rebellion through to his own role in the second Tuareg rebellion, and taking in childhood exile, tailoring, carpentry, more family tragedy, prison, training in the Ghadaffi camps to what might ultimately be deemed his salvation through music. All the features written on the band over the last few years could no doubt be stitched together to tell much of this story, but Ibrahim opens up as never before under gentle probing to reveal the tight bind between the music and the cultural strength of the Tuaregs themselves. Possibly the only obvious question remaining is when or whether Ibrahim would ever re-join the armed wing of what appears to be a continuous struggle for recognition and freedom for the Tuaregs, but that answer remains implicit in what remains true rebel music, devoid of spoilt Western rock star posturing.
The concert itself finds the band on fine form, the Shepherd's Bush Empire gig of late 2007 truncated to a tight, seventy minute twelve-song set of tracks mostly comprising – and evenly divided between – the band's last two albums. The band is in particularly spirited form, their stagecraft improved beyond measure from their early, static appearances, and there's the option of concurrent subtitled song explanations for added depth.
In addition, there is a brief interview with producer Justin Adams about the relationship between himself and the band, a fifteen minute documentary chiefly comprising interviews with individual members of the entourage that sheds further light on the group and its cultural context, and you can even learn how to tie a shesh (Tuareg turban).
All in all, a well put-together, informative package which doesn‘t outstay its welcome.