Tinariwen — Emmaar (Anti-)
Tinariwen’s second album for Anti- Records starts out with something you’ve never heard from them before — words in English. The Tuareg ensemble has long placed expressions of cultural survival near the top of their agenda, and one way of doing so has been to sing in their native Tamashek tongue. But the first words on “Toumast Tincha,” Emmaar’s opening track, are poet Saul Williams’s stagy recitation about dancing around the fire while the desert wind blows. Look at the credits and you’ll see that guitars played by Josh Klinghoffer and Matt Sweeney are coming down the pike. At this moment, you might think that this is the record that you were afraid Tinariwen would make when they signed to a bigger label, one where they compromise in unseemly ways.
But in short order the hand drums lay down a patient groove and the guitars start winding lazily around each other, and the group’s chanted vocal lets you know who is boss.