Desert Blues in the Emerald City: Tinariwen & Vieux Farka Touré Perform at Earshot Jazz Festival

Tuareg guitar legends Tinariwen and the son of the Desert Blues legend Ali Farka Toure (Vieux Farka Touré), will be appearing at this year’s Earshot Jazz Festival under the moniker, Festival in the Desert Concert. This unique double bill will be featured at Town Hall on October 31, 8:00 p.m.
 The last time Tinariwen brought its Saharan blues and rock to a stage in Seattle, we were experiencing post election depression disorder–Bush had been re-elected for a second term. Although the world has not faired well under this current U.S. President’s tenure, at least Tinariwen won’t be dealing with post election blues this time. And we can ask ourselves if there is a glimmer of hope behind darker clouds when Bush recognizes the 14th Dalai Lama with a Gold Congressional Medal. The world certainly does not appear on the brink of peace and tranquility, but at least the 14th Dalai Lama is wielding a greater and greater influence on which direction the world will take.In 2004 when Tinariwen hit the stage at a small theater in Seattle’s Queen Anne District, Seattlelites delved into the band’s cathartic and snaky desert blues. Bodies swayed to the exotic Arabic-Berber rhythms and some more courageous folks clambered around the stage where they danced their blues away. While some of these concert attendees might have been aware of the band’s biographic details and legendary history, others might have had never encountered any musicians hailing from the Sahara Desert, and even some folks today who consider seeing this double bill at Town Hall might not be aware of the Festival of the Desert in which this double bill claims as its moniker.

"Even if you do not know the story of Tinariwen, the Tuareg nomads-turned-rock-performers, you can sense their rebel souls in their latest recording Aman Iman: Water is Life (World Village). The band made waves throughout the Sahara Desert playing what became the soundtrack for Tuareg independence and reconciliation. And now they are making waves in the American and European rock scenes. The latest buzz echoes their D.I.Y. origins in their barren homeland." (press notes)

While Tinariwen came on board in the West, (North American & Europe), a few years ago, and garnering critical acclaim in the countries where they have performed, Vieux Farka Touré is relatively new to western audiences. His U.S. debut, was released only recently. His sound, a blend of desert blues, rock, reggae, and 100% Malian, dovetails Tinariwen‘s sound. These artists, although in Tinariwen‘s case certainly not in their 20s, possess a youthful and exotic appeal. They also hail from a musical treasure chest (Mali), filled to the brim with musical styles, intriguing traditional instruments, dialects, and cultures.

"Mali’s bluesman Ali Farka Touré has passed the torch onto his son Vieux Farka Touré, whose self-titled first album on World Village Music features the final studio recordings of the older Touré before his death in March 2006. The album, which also features kora-player Toumani Diabaté, draws heavily on the same blues-inflected North African desert traditions that Ali Farka Touré made famous on such albums as the Grammy-winning Ry Cooder collaboration Talking Timbuktu (World Circuit). Vieux’s debut pays musical homage to his father’s roots with familiar trancey guitar-work while incorporating new musical influences from reggae to rock." (press notes)

For some concert goers, the blues side of Mali might be new to their ears. They might be familiar with the griot tradition, which feature yet another vocal style, balafon, kora and other instruments. Tinariwen‘s electric guitar which sometimes borders a Saharan Hendrix resembles rock music of the late 60s and early 70s. Vieux Farka Touré‘s music resembles his late father, Ali Farka Toure‘s repertoire. But what you can expect from this double bill is a whole lot of guitars, both electric and acoustic. And you can expect a lot of social commentary even if you cannot understand French or the other dialects in which the songs are sung.

Well, you can expect that from African musical performers in general. Usually a morality lesson can be found tucked away in the lyrics of any given song. While others might sing about liberation from oppression or return from exile to their homeland.

For information about other for the Earshot Jazz Festival lineup go to

This Halloween go see guitar legends in action and hear why the journalists are raving about Malian music.


Ticket and other information can be found at or (206) 547-9787.

Buy  Aman Iman: Water is Life, Vieux Farka Touré and Vieux Farka Toure Remixed

–Patricia Herlevi also hosts The Whole Music Experience blog
"Global Music Consciousness"

Author: PatriciaHerlevi

Patricia Herlevi is a former music journalist turned music researcher. She is especially interested in raising music consciousness. She is looking for an agent and publisher for her book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). She founded and hosts the blog
The Whole Music Experience and has contributed to World Music Central since 2003.