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EarPeace Reviews: Tinariwen & Yasmine Hamdan @The Roundhouse, London

December 08, 2014

EarPeace had another unforgettable night at the Roundhouse on Sunday, the 16th of November. We listened to world music amid a diverse audience of all ages and nationalities. Everyone was enjoying the performances, clapping along to the beats and dancing throughout the night.

The Lebanese legend, Yasmine Hamdan started out her musical career as the vocals for Soapkills in Beirut, which is considered the first ever indie/electronic band from the Middle East. Yasmine has become a very strong feminine figure in the region through her success as a musician. She grabbed attention in Lebanon during the 90’s and ever since then her fan base has been growing. Touring around the world, especially in countries such as France, she is spreading powerful music in her own language – Arabic. She writes her own songs with authentic lyrics, predominantly about women and love. Her debut album was released in 2013 through a collaboration with Nouvelle Vague’s Marc Collin.

Yasmine Hamdan’s performance at the Roundhouse was unconventional, making her quite impressive. She was going back and forth between two different microphones and using her fingers and hands to cover her mouth to alter the projection of her voice. Hamdan’s backing band was as good as her, especially the guitarist who had mastered playing his instrument with a bow.

Below is the performance of Yasmine Hamdan’s appearance for NPR Music. “These three songs are stripped-down versions of pieces from Hamdan’s current album, Ya Nass. Amazingly, these hypnotic arrangements came together mere moments before her Tiny Desk Concert. Hamdan had only just met Gabriel Gordon when they traveled down together from New York that morning. They’re unrehearsed, and yet locked into a sound that’s calm, cool and universal.” BOB BOILEN from NPR

The main act of the night was Tinariwen, meaning plural for desert. Tinariwen are a nomadic group of musicians formed in the late 70’s. Although they are from Mali, they actually spent a lot of time outside of their homeland because of the political unrest in their country at the time. Their music is a combination of blues, folk and Tichumaren music, a style that originates from North Africa, hence they are usually categorised as ‘world’ music. The word Tichumaren originates from the French word chomeur, which means the unemployed, representing the state of the North African people at the time of political turmoil and unrest. Tinariwen’s music is predominantly composed of vocals and guitars, usually three or four per song.

Tinariwen’s act at the Roundhouse was exceptional; special enough that we just had to buy an overpriced vinyl from the merch stand just to remember the night! One main continuous melody in their songs made their live performance quite hypnotic and gripping, with dynamism achieved though the added guitar and vocal parts. When you listen to their pieces, it is easy to see that the percussion instruments are a substantial component, as it creates the continuous nature that characterises their music. That is why I was amazed to see only one drum player on stage. The secret to their distinctive sound is the layering of multiple guitars and choir-like vocals, all of which you can explore with the playlist below.

Emmaar, Tinariwen’s new album, was recorded in a desert (Joshua Tree, California) but in a completely different part of the world to where they originate from. Our favourites are “Toumast Tincha,” You can stream their new album below:


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