Tinariwen, Afro-Zep featuring Senke West African Percussion Ensemble | Lincoln Hall | International | Chicago Reader
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Tinariwen, Afro-Zep featuring Senke West African Percussion Ensemble 

When: Thu., July 7, 8 p.m. 2011
Price: $30
While the world's been watching the Arab Spring, the western Sahara has been going through another season of unrest. Things were too dangerous to ship a mobile recording rig to Tinariwen's de facto home base of Tessalit, Mali, so instead this band of Tuareg nomads decamped to Djanet, Algeria, to make the forthcoming Tassili (their first album for Anti-). In some ways, it's a back-to-basics effort for the group; they put away their electric guitars, sat around campfires working out all-acoustic arrangements of new and old songs, and recorded them in a tent. Tinariwen's songs lose none of their power unplugged, and the patient, pungent acoustic picking is every bit as compelling as the skirling jams they uncork in concert. Even though the band dialed things down, Tassili does have one hallmark of a big-label debut—high-­profile guests. Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone, both of TV on the Radio, sing on five tunes, most notably adding an English-language hook to "Tenere Taqqim Tossam" (which is otherwise sung in Tinariwen's native Tamashek). The Dirty Dozen Brass Band lends a Crescent City funeral vibe to "Ya Messinagh," and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline contributes atmospheric licks to a few songs. Tinariwen's lineup changes with each tour, and this time they're a five-piece led by singer-guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who appears to have soldiered through the health problems that kept him home a few years ago. Opening the show is AfroZep, who play Led Zeppelin songs re­arranged in the styles of Afropop icons like Fela Kuti, Franco, and Thomas Mapfumo. —Bill Meyer

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