by Francis Andrews in New Music on Friday 14 November 2008

The Tinariwen album, Aman Iman, was a star among the many great releases of 2007, surprisingly so given the underexposure of world music in your average annual list of must-haves (even emo-warriors Pitchfork gave it a big thumbs-up). Their story is as intriguing as the music: hailing from the Tuareg tribe in Mali, they formed in 1982 in the rebel camps of Colonel Gaddafi. The lyrics, sung in French and Tamashek, are intensely political, focused largely on the struggle by Malians for independence from their government. The music is very spatial and, like Ali Farke-Toure or Amadou & Mariam, really evokes the size and ambiance of the African Savannah. Don’t be put off by the genre: it’s a very accessible sound, and the loosely-delivered vocals are simply mesmerising.