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Grammy Award-winning Tinariwen play for Smugglers Records' world music festival in Deal, June 2015

The Deal community of musicians under the banner of Smugglers Records usually organise one music festival a year, but this summer they’ve added another event to their calendar with a real coup of a headline act.

Smugglers has attracted the Grammy Award-winning world music band Tinariwen, a group from Mali in west Africa whose latest album features guests including Red Hot Chilli Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer among others, to top the bill at a new one-day festival in woodland near Deal this weekend.

Dressed in their traditional garb, the nomadic Tuareg desert-dwellers Tinariwen are a Saharan blues band more used to performing under desert skies, but are all too happy to exchange that for lush Kent countryside for this one-off performance.


Band member Eyadou Ag Leche said: “The desert is part of us. We consider it like our mother. When we are far from it while touring we feel nostalgia, but it’s always travelling with us in our minds.

“I guess the beauty of nature makes people more patient and less stressed. We love seeing other landscapes too, so we will appreciate the English woodland and we’ll bring some desert with us!”

Tinariwen have been described by the Daily Telegraph as “possessors the original DNA of rock and roll”. The seeds of the band were planted when frontman Ibrahim Ag Alhabib made his own crude first guitar out of a tin can, a stick and bicycle brake wire after seeing a cowboy film as a child.

Ibrahim Ag Alhabib
Ibrahim Ag Alhabib

He started off playing traditional music of the Tuareg people and Arabic pop tunes, then later evolved when he heard rock artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley and Carlos Santana, and consequently formed Tinariwen.

Eyadou said: “Our influences are mainly our own ancestral Tamashek language and sound, a mix of women’s voices and percussions, the percussions imitating the camel rhythm. With Tinariwen we added the electric guitars that we’ve been plugging into our low battery amps, which has given this specific sound to our music and gives the blues of the desert.


“We all have our artist preferences – Hendrix, Bob Marley, Ali Farka Toure, Lee Scratch Perry, Johnny Cash, Dire Straits! Many different tastes.”

With such diverse influences, the band has evolved through the years and its worldwide success and popularity peaked with the Grammy win in 2012 for Best World Music Album. “We have been very honoured, although we didn’t know this award before!” said Eyadou.


“But we understood how important it is and how much it helps. We think it was especially good as a way to speak about the whole community.”

Of the audience in Deal, which is a world away from their west African roots, he said: “The UK audience is very interesting. They are curious. You can feel that music is an important matter to them.”

The Tinariwen Live in the Woods: World Music festival featuring Diabel Cissokho, Simo Lagnawi and Gnawa Blues All-Stars and Cocos Lovers will take place on Saturday, June 6, from noon in woodland near Deal. Location will be revealed to ticket holders. North African and Middle Eastern food will be offered throughout the day, along with a dedicated Smugglers Inn offering Kentish Ales, wines and ciders. Overnight camping is available. Tickets cost £50 per person, or £100 for a family ticket. Visit www.smugglersrecords.com

Smugglers will also host its annual end-of-summer three-day festival featuring Cocos Lovers, Sura Susso Family Band, the John Langan Band, Will Varley and more. It will be held in Great Mongeham, near Deal, between Thursday, September 3 and Sunday, September 6. Visit www.smugglersrecords.com.

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