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Tinariwen is a band formed in 1982 of Tuareg people who had been conscripted into Muammar al-Gaddafi's army. They play in the Tishoumaren ("music of the unemployed") style, and sing mostly in the French and Tamashek languages. Their songs mostly cover the subject of independence for their people from the government of Mali. They are said to be the first Tuareg band to use electric guitars.
Having recorded many albums available on cassette over their eighteen years, the group recorded their first album for the CD format in December 2000; the album was known as The Radio Tisdas Sessions and was their first recording available outside of Africa.
The Western world first took great notice of Tinariwen due to their performance at the Festival au Désert, a musical festival held in Tin-Essako, Mali, a remote region of the Sahara Desert, in January 2001.
The band released a second album, Amassakoul ("Traveller") in 2004, and played concerts in Europe (where they performed one of the highlights of the 2004 Womad Reading ) and the United States to support the album.
In 2007, a 52 minute documentary called Teshumara, or the guitars of the revolution played in movie theaters in Europe. It tells the history of the Tuareg rebellion and the role played by Tinariwen in this struggle for freedom. Combined with Amassakoul, it has been released as the CD/DVD combo The Soul Rebel Of African Desert.
They have met great resistance from rock radio and press unable to embrace a non-English speaking act, but have forged a career playing world music festivals. At times, the band feels that their music is underappreciated despite the fact that they have been doing many interviews with the media in recent years.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Chris Martin cited Tinariwen as having a great influence on Coldplay's 2008 album, Viva la Vida.
On April 18, 2009 they played at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. They were be featured at Glastonbury in June 2009.