Tinariwen is a Grammy Award-winning group of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali.

Tinariwen is a tuareg music band formed in 1979 at the border between Mali and Algeria. Pioneers of the assouf style (“nostalgia” in tamashek), they address Tuareg people’s preoccupations in songs that mix blues, traditional west African and Arab music. Since they started gaining international recognition in the early 2000s, they have played more than 1100 shows all across the world and released eight studio albums, three of them being nominated, and one of them winning, at the Grammy Awards (Tassili, 2011). 

After nineteen years of touring North America and Europe, Tinariwen have met renowned folk, rock and country musicians such as Kurt Vile, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Micah Nelson (son of Willie Nelson) or Jack White. In the summer of 2021, the latter invited the band to his private studio in Nashville to record an album. With the help of his sound engineer Joshua V. Smith, the idea was to explore the links between tuareg and country music, inviting local country musicians along with famous producer Daniel Lanois (Brian Eno, U2, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Peter Gabriel). Because of the pandemic, the project was aborted and the album was eventually recorded in the Sahara desert, near the city of Djanet in southern Algeria. Some local musicians took part in the sessions, notably the multi-instrumentalist Hicham Bouhasse from the renowned tuareg band Imarhan, while Daniel Lanois did some additional recordings and production from his studio in Los Angeles. Country musicians Wes Corbett(banjo) and Fats Kaplin (violin, pedal steel, guitar, banjo) also contributed from Nashville.

The ten tracks on the resulting album Amatssou is about the hard reality of Tamashek people in northern Mali: the ruling Malian military junta, the Wagner Group (Russian mercenaries), the departure of the French Army “Operation Barkhane” and the increasing power of the Salafists…

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