Album Review: Tinariwen, ‘Amatssou’

On their ninth studio album, Tinariwen is back with their signature sound that weaves hypnotic rhythms with joyous anthemic vocals and guitars.

The Malian collective joins forces with producer Daniel Lanois and Nashville stalwarts Wes Corbett and Fats Kaplin on Amatssou, which translates as “beyond fear,” producing a sound rooted in the political struggles of Mali. At the same time, the music transcends the local and focuses on the universal concerns of humanity.

The album opens with “Kek Alghalm,” a driving, percussive song that features a snaky lead guitar slithering under the soaring voices of the singers; though it opens on somber notes, it blossoms into an infectiously upbeat song.

“Tenere Den” weaves layer upon layer of somber guitars intertwining with the strain of a fiddle that directs the melody line of the song, while “Arajghiyine” tumbles along on with a psychedelic tone, encouraging resistance to any political leaders that would compromise their homeland. With its guitars and solemn vocals, “Arajghiyine” illustrates the depth of Tinariwen’s songwriting.

The desert fiddle of “Imzad” provides a reflective instrumental interlude that both clears the mind musically and emotionally. The cascade of guitars that opens “Jayche Atarak” opens into an urgent vocal that warns that Mali’s enemies will face the wrath of those martyred in any revolution. “Anemouhagh” opens with a cappella vocals that soon soar over layers of banjo and guitars and the album closes with the spiraling, mesmerizing vocal and percussive repetition of “Tinde (Outro).”

Amatssou showcases the cinematic beauty and rich melodic lyricism of Tinariwen, elevating the sounds of this stunning collective and providing crisp new sounds that traverse the boundaries of blues, bluegrass, and folk.


Amatssou is available HERE.


Music & Merch

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