- Tinariwen was founded by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who at age four witnessed the execution of his father (a Tuareg rebel) during a 1963 uprising in Mali. As a child Ag Alhabib saw a western film in which a cowboy played a guitar, which inspired him to build his own guitar out of a “plastic water can, a stick and some fishing wire”, according to Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni.
- In 2012, two members of Tinariwen—the bandleader Ag Alhabib and the acoustic guitarist Elaga Al Hamid—were reportedly stuck in refugee camps near the Algerian border and weren’t able to join the Tinariwen tour. The band’s manager, Patrick Votan commented, “They’re more focused on the human tragedy,” and are trying to get food and water to their families and fellow-refugees as famine threatens in lieu of joining the fight or joining the music tour.
- The Tinariwen sound is primarily guitar-driven in the style known as “assouf” among the Tuareg people. The Tinariwen guitar style has its roots in West African music and specifically from the “great bend” region along the Niger River between Timbuktu and Gao. The core elements of Tinariwen’s music are traditional Tuareg melodies and rhythms including those played on the shepherd’s flute, which is primarily a man’s instrument, and those played on a one-string fiddle known as an “imzad” which is played by women. The primary percussion instrument is the “tende” drum which is played by women on festive occasions. Another important traditional influence is the lute known as the “teherdent,” which is played by the griots of the Gao and
- Timbuktu regions. In the late 1970s, when the founding members of Tinariwen started playing acoustic guitars, they played a traditional repertoire adapted to the western guitar.