Music for People Who Love Music

November 21st, 2011

Tinariwen – Webster Hall – November 19, 2011

The stage is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what your backstory is: If you can make great music, people will come see you regardless. And while the band’s history is nothing short of remarkable, Tinariwen had a Webster Hall audience’s rapt attention Saturday night because of their music that, at times, felt almost literally magical.

Working mostly with material off their 2011 release, Tassili, the group was a study in the unexpected. Using mostly common-issue tools (guitar, bass), they created a hypnotic, groovy blend unlike anything I’ve ever heard. You could certainly close your eyes and discover bits of funk or Delta blues buried beneath otherworldly percussion and chanting harmonies. But these pieces came together to create something unique and moving and filled with inherent happiness.

It seemed strange to think that these musicians came in on the bus parked around the corner and did a sound check like any other. The bass guitar, a standard-issue four-string Fender, was a magic carpet of groove, a thin line between defiant and jubilant. Those in the crowd were drawn in completely, dancing in ways they did not know they could move, coaxed by the turbaned band’s movements. This was music for people who love music because it’s music, no backstory required. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine |