Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Tunng and Tinariwen: Live at Koko

Morecambe and Wise, Mark and Jez, Cannon and Ball, Richard and Judy – seminal combinations I’m sure you’ll agree and some of them you wouldn’t really have imagined (though a twitchy shoplifter and a boozy flasher were always a decent bet for union) – tonight is one such. Touched, as I’m sure many a listener in this country has been, by the pure rhythmic beauty of Tinariwen, the scale at which words which I’m the first to admit I don’t understand at all, can affect you so much was probably what drew Tunng to this glorious meeting.

As previously documented in ShadowPlay Tinariwen were a group of travelling nomads in Saharan Africa with many of their songs, including those on the beautiful Radio Tisdas Sessions, birthed in these dusty surroundings. Championed in the UK by dubious genius Andy Kershaw Tinariwen have built quite a following over here and could doubtless have sold tonight’s gig at the impressive Koko in Camden out alone. But their partnership with folktronica darlings Tunng confirmed the gig’s place in the hearts and buzz of all the self-respecting pretentious vaguely arty nerds (I’m nothing if not modest) of the time.

And it doesn’t disappoint, with the first few songs played by Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni (guitar, vocals), Eyadou Ag Leche (guitars, bass guitar, vocals) and Said Ag Ayad (percussion, vocals) alone you start to panic, maybe I misread the poster? Maybe they’re not playing together afterall? But then Tunng bounce on to the stage, clearly excited at the end of a tour which has seen them wow nationwide. Tinariwen largely oblige on lead guitar and percussion while Tunng offer up backing vocals and, well twiddly bits, on the former’s songs. For the most part it’s the Algerians who dominate the set (incidentally fine by me, I very much like Tunng but they’re capable of washing over in a way their stage-mates seem incapable of) with some choice cuts from their last outing Aman Iman: Water Is Life with Mano Dayek and Matadjem Tinmixan proving particularly incredible with Tunng’s Becky Jacob’s providing surprisingly accurate (to the record) backing vocals. It’s an experiment for sure, sometimes songs trail on a little too long, sometimes Alhousseyni becomes obsolete and goes offstage but Mike Lindsay, Tunng’s frontman shows such exuberance and excitement about the night that permeates through the crowd. The highlight has to be Lindsay’s interpretation of Tinariwen’s love of listening to metal – a two minute rock-out pretending to hit screaming solos on his acoustic guitar providing laughs all round. An adventurous project, fully pulled off, let’s hope they get something down on record.

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