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Tinariwen’s Transcendental Blues

Mali’s Finest Musical Export Plugs in at UCSB

<b>IT'S A SMALL WORLD:</b> Saharan blues rockers Tinariwen bring their sprawling, affecting, sobering sounds to UCSB's Campbell Hall on Sunday, October 26.

DESERT SONG: Looking back on my musical upbringing, it seems inevitable that I’d end up drawn to that sweet spot where psych rock and blues collide. As the resident music buff in my young life, my dad wore his love of Jimi Hendrix on his sleeve. He also still has his 1969 Hollywood Bowl ticket stub, framed, no less. Today, I’m surrounded by more music makers, facilitators, and fans than I know what to do with, and yet those fatherly founded style guides still ring true. He taught me that good music can be loud or quiet so long as it has soul. And it’s always better if the guitar does the majority of the heavy lifting.

Thinking about it now, I’m almost beside myself that I haven’t introduced my dear old dad to Tinariwen yet. Since forming in 1979 around the music of Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, this malleable group of multi-generational players from the deserts of northern Mali has been stirring the pot in nearly every sense of the word. On the sociopolitical front, Tinariwen was built within the Tuareg rebel community as a protest band, and many members of its rotating cast of characters have fought firsthand in rebel armies against the Mali government. Musically speaking, Tinariwen’s sound is a potent and affecting melting pot of styles, with influences ranging from Moroccan protest music to Algerian pop to American rock à la Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, and, of course, Jimi Hendrix. Somewhere between that interplay of worldly touchstones and unfathomable personal strife, Tinariwen has crafted a model that defies cultural lines and defines the human condition. While harmonies and lyrics factor in prominently, the deliveries easily transcend the band’s Tuareg language barriers. Add in a love of resonating guitar chords, psychedelic sonic washes, and that blurry space where vocal melodies and guitar melodies combine, and you can begin to understand the fully immersive experience that is the music Tinariwen makes.

This Sunday, October 26, the band pulls into UCSB’s Campbell Hall, thanks to the fine folks at Arts & Lectures. No matter your musical leanings, cultural background, or political allegiances, I highly recommend snagging a ticket to this rare, sure-to-be-mind-expanding performance. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to invite your dad.

For tickets and info, call (805) 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.

GOOD DEEDS: Also this week, beloved folk-rock icon Jackson Browne returns to the Arlington Theatre for a special night of music to benefit Sanctuary Centers. The community-based nonprofit has been serving adults living with mental illness in Santa Barbara since 1976 and providing all manner of programs and assistance, ranging from residential and outpatient care to offering low-income housing and drug and alcohol therapy. As for Jackson, who calls Santa Barbara home and has long stayed active in myriad charity organizations, this month marks the release of his 14th studio album, Standing in the Breach. The record marks Browne’s first collection of new material in six years, and it’s sure to factor prominently into the Arlington show, which features the singer/songwriter in full-band mode, with a number of still-to-be-announced special guests slated to make appearances. The show takes place Saturday, October 25, at 8 p.m. For tickets, call (805) 963-4408 or visit thearlingtontheatre.com.

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