The music of multigenerational Tuareg band Tinariwen, whose name translates to ‘People of the Deserts’ or ‘The Desert Boys’ in Tamashek, merges traditional Tuareg melodies and rhythms with guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll in a style known as assouf among the Tuareg people and dubbed ‘desert blues’ by music critics. This style has its roots in West Africa, specifically the Great Bend region between Timbuktu and Gao along the Niger River.

Tinariwen was founded in 1979 by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, along with Alhassane Ag Touhami and brothers Inteyeden Ag Ablil and Liya Ag Ablil (aka ‘Diarra), in Tamanrasset, Algeria, while they were in exile from Mali. Having moved from refugee camp to refugee camp in both Algeria and Libya, they joined military training in Libya in the early 1980s, also continuing to write and perform songs about issues facing the Tuareg people. In 1989 they returned to Mali, where some band members joined a Tuareg rebellion, but they dedicated themselves to music full-time after a peace accord was reached in 1991.

Tinariwen has released nine albums and played over 1400 concerts. Following a decade in which their music was exchanged person to person on dubbed cassettes, they released their debut album, The Radio Tisdas Sessions, in 2001. Among their other albums are Amassakoul (2004); Aman Iman (2007); Imidiwan: Companions (2009); Tassili (2011), which won a Grammy for Best World Music Album; Emmaar (2014); and Elwan (2017). Guest artists on their albums have included TV on the Radio, Kurt Vile, Matt Sweeney, Flea, Mark Lanegan, Josh Klinghoffer, Cass McCombs, Warren Ellis and Saul Williams.

The band has performed at global events such as the Glastonbury Festival and WOMAD, UK; Roskilde Festival, Denmark; Fuji Rock Festival, Naeba, Japan; and the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert, Soweto. They have also appeared on The Colbert Report and Later With Jools Holland.

Tinariwen has received a BBC Award for World Music (2005) and the Praetorius International Peace Music Prize (2008).

SAF participation:
SB15 Music Programme (2023)


Tinariwen: Live In Sharjah

Sharjah Art Foundation is excited to present multigenerational Grammy Award-winning Tuareg band Tinariwen live in Sharjah as part of the Sharjah Biennial 15 Music Programme.


Sharjah Biennial 15 Music Programme

A series of concerts, performances and recitals, the music component of Sharjah Biennial 15, brings together six highly celebrated international artists and ensembles: Abdullah Ibrahim, Boubacar Traoré, Noura Mint Seymali, Tinariwen, Youssou N’Dour, and Aziza Brahim.