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Iswegh Attay - Tinariwen

Today’s poem has to be seen, and heard - Iswegh Attay

“We wanted to go back to our origins, to the experience of ishumar,” which means exile or being adrift, explained Eyadou ag Leche, the band’s bass player, speaking in French during an interview in New York in July. “Those were times when we would sit around a campfire, singing songs and passing around a guitar. Tinariwen was born in that movement, in that atmosphere, so what you hear on ‘Tassili’ is the feeling of ishumar.” - Blues from the desert recorded on-site

"The ceremony depicted involves green tea, fresh mint, lots of sugar and a meticulous preparation. When the first pot is drained, the process is repeated using the same tea leaves, but adding sugar. Then it's done a third time. Tea is always brewed thrice. The name of the three tea servings; the first is bitter as death, the second is sweet as life and the third is soft as love.” - Anti-

I first experienced this “tea song” on a winter’s evening in Delhi. The air was pregnant with conversation and nostalgia, as friends sat together sharing songs and memories. Sharing a song with someone is beyond music, or poetry. It turns friendship into communion. The Tuareg-Berber band Tinariwen’s music invokes this communion. With a voice, as porous and old as sand, and guitar that strums with the serenity of the desert the musicians bring to life the quiet resolve of a nomadic pastoral people searching for freedom, and identity.

“The best Tinariwen album hasn’t been recorded yet. Perhaps it never will be. Because the best Tinariwen music isn’t the music they perform in front of microphones. It’s the music they play at night around the fire, back in their own country, amongst themselves and at their own pace. Having eaten, and drunk their tea, the men bring out their guitars, chat, remember old songs and let the music come. In those moments, the music can become like the fire, free, magical and impossible to stuff into a box. It rises up like a shower of sparks or a state of grace, without premeditation; the momentary manifestation of a friendship, a community, an environment, a history; the revelatory connection with something that belongs only to them, and goes beyond them.

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