Imidiwan: Companions

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Sometimes in music, the teacher learns some valuable things from the student. In the United States, traditional African music played an essential role in the development of what came to be called the blues -- and many years later, American blues artists returned the favor by influencing artists in various parts of Africa. The blues have certainly had a major impact on Tinariwen, a group from the Sahara region. The influence of the blues is impossible to miss on their two-disc set Imidiwan: Companions, which consists of a 62-minute audio CD and a 30-minute bonus DVD. The DVD, a documentary, contains interviews with members of Tinariwen as well as some musical performances, while the CD offers music exclusively. But on both the CD and the DVD, there is never any doubt that Imidiwan: Companions is world fusion in the true sense. Tinariwen's music has a strong blues element, a strong Malian element, and a strong Middle Eastern/Arabic element; that combination of influences yields compelling results for the group, which favors a combination of acoustic and electric instruments. Acoustic percussion is united with electric guitar and electric bass, but the fact that Imidiwan: Companions isn't strictly acoustic doesn't mean that the music isn't rootsy and organic-sounding. The performances are consistently earthy, and the feeling of the blues is impossible to miss on hypnotic, haunting tracks such as "Tenalle Chegret," "Assuf Ag Assuf," "Lulla," and "Enseqi Ehad Didagh." In fact, Imidiwan: Companions is full of moody guitar riffs that would not be the least bit out of place on a John Lee Hooker or Lightnin' Hopkins album, although the non-English-language vocals and the African percussion obviously are not things one would typically expect to find on a traditional American blues recording. World music enthusiasts can't go wrong with the excellent Imidiwan: Companions.

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