Funny how Tears For Fears have been a great cushion and encouragement for me to appreciate my own culture. Over the years they’ve worked with a number of cultured artists and always have a diverse group alongside them in some form or fashion. I believe with all my heart Tears For Fears would make great music event hosts, headlining an international night of global stars. I recently saw two I could imagine in one of their future fascinating festival line ups.
Tinariwen’s legendary show was so incredible and so overwhelming it took me over a week to wrap my mind around the experience. I first saw them on TV… CNN International in fact, on Inside Africa and other programs highlighting the world’s great musicians. A note had barely been played and I was already hooked. To hear of talent bursting out of the coveted and sacred Tuareg region of the world was exhilarating. And thank G-d for Facebook because that’s how I found out they were coming. With them was Sophie Hunger who explained to us how she and her band drive for nearly 8 hours a day in a car from city to city to do these 40 minute shows and how much it meant to her. She said she appreciated us paying attention as if that wasn’t something that happened regularly…but how on earth could one not pay attention to her? That voice! Oh myyy! That alone I feel is why she should one day perform alongside Tears For Fears. She’s got this range from heaven and her lyrics are deep. Accompanied by two outstanding multi-instrumentalists; the combination of the three make them an opening act you almost don’t want to perform without!
My Show Experience: The Fan Point of View I don’t think the show was promoted very well. How I coincidently ran across this concert announcement is not how a legendary group’s show should be spread. Nonetheless, Alhumdulillah! I got my ticket about 2-weeks before and then on the blessed day was up at 6am to get ready for their 8pm show. I went through a number of rituals I do for shows I deem sacred. There was the cleansing, polishing scrubbing, raqs workouts, meditation…the whole nine yards. This was not a show to take lightly. Anyone could be there…anything could happen. Hours rolled by and 6pm came. It was “go time.” I happily found the Variety Playhouse with ease. I’d been there so many times but my nervousness left me concerned if I’d find it without getting turned around in circles. All that worry for nothing. I was 2nd at the door.
I sat at Fevzi’s (Ali Baba’s) place and listened to the ultra talented Sophie Hunger chit chat with new fans who warned her not to take that beer down the street or she’d be arrested. They complimented her shoes and cool European clothes. She was very cute. Little did I know she had one incredible set that she was about to lay on us. A new fan asked for her autograph and I specifically remember her saying, “I’d give it to you but it’s worthless.” My heart sank! She has no idea of her worth! The lady is so talented and beautiful. If I had been that fan I’d have demanded she give me her autograph…or bribed her with another beer…something!! LOL!
The line began to form and there were mostly couples as expected. This show I imagined would bring in families and tons of locals from the Maghreb. I rather expected a homogenous audience but instead found it to be full of international families and young men and women who looked as if they’d been following this band for a while with their demand to be left alone in the front row. Once we were permitted inside (right at 7:30 on the dot as promised) Security came around telling each of us seated on the front row that people would get up and stand in front of us. We quickly let them know we’d be one of the many doing just that. They got the picture and left us alone to squirm uncontrollably for this show to start.
Victoria from Tennessee drove 5 hours to see Tinariwen. She too was up at 6am to get ready for the show. Her family dropped her off at the venue at 3pm and she was fortunate to meet the band and hang out with them while she waited for the show. Her energy was through the roof. She was just like me at a Tears For Fears concert…eager and waiting with angst as the hours ticked away til show time. While we waited, the music was just pure hard core blue-grass. Songs about cornbread and square dancing with the local gals…It was complimentary to the night only because we knew we were about to hear some raw-straight-from-the desert-music…and well, that blue grass set was straight out of Appalachia. Vicky was tapping her feet the whole time. I don’t think it was because she necessarily enjoyed it but because she was so anxious for the show to start anything to get her mind off of the wait was helping. Here’s her story about her experience: Feel free to read this and come back to see it from an international community point of view.
Though I adore their music and got hooked to their sound quickly, as it takes me back to the loving days when my family was all here in the states; I’m not nearly as up on my Tinariwen facts as Victoria. So I was thrilled to have her with me and get a thorough lesson on who each group member was and what songs were on the set list. If it wasn’t for Victoria wouldn’t have had as good of a time. She was a great help the whole evening and if she hadn’t been there I’d have spent the whole time worried about singing the songs correctly or calling certain members by the wrong name.
Sophie sang several of her own songs and changed up one to fit the environment… including the words “Little 5 Points” in the lyrics. Such a cool nod to all of us in Atlanta and the neighbourhood that was hosting them for the evening. The remaining songs were a mix of English, Swiss German and some French. I enjoyed her entire set and certainly want to collect her music. She made a new fan out of me within the first 3 minutes of sharing her powerful sound. It was incredible. You have to hear her. Here’s a short clip that doesn’t do her justice but you’ll perhaps understand…
One of the beautiful things about the night was the aesthetically pleasing stage. I’ve been to so many shows at The Variety Playhouse and I’ve never seen a stage set so well. The colours changed with each song and the background was gorgeous. I don’t remember this when seeing Cheb Khaled, Gogol Bordello or others. Of course many bands have their own backdrops but was that of the playhouse or?? Stunning choice!! When Sophie completed her set the stage lights came up for just a few minutes. By this time the whole playhouse was filled…not sold out but filled and that was comforting…though this band is SO BIG there’s no explanation as to why the tickets didn’t sell out and several fans made their voices heard with anger that more people weren’t there to hear them. Of all cities in the south, Atlanta should have sold out. But embarrassingly we were not and that may be due to the personal agendas of many people in our community or…The “messed up economy” that has left many without the means to attend anything at all.
House lights dropped, the band began to emerge from the gorgeous backdrop. Victoria and the whole front row lept up and walked forward clapping while zaghareets wailed through the venue. We stopped just short at the stage, my head right at Hassan’s feet and their spirit just took over. The set included a number of their top hits and some of the newer items that have been promoted around the world. Right now, my favourite song by them is this one on which Carlos Santana accompanied at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. And our show felt very intimate like this one here:
And here’s a short clip of perhaps my favourite song of the night.
Tinariwen’s influence is certainly from their culture/our culture…that sound from Mali/Niger and surrounding countries and cultures that make up one of the most beautiful and naturally serene parts of the world. But Rock, Blues and other genres are embedded into their sound because they heard this music on television growing up. Read their history here: They are the Desert’s Guitar. They are some of the best representatives of the region’s sound and again what an honour to be front row dancing and swaying in a cultural fashion (as we do) with them leading the way…particularly Hassan, who dances the entire time. It’s amazing.
When they walked off stage my greedy, selfish, superfanself went into beg mode. “Hassan, I want a towel. Give me a towel, please?!!” They had barely had a moment to bow to the audience I was already reaching cause I was afraid they’d walk off. So I’m yelling in French and Arabic to please let me have the towel. Hassan stuck around and got the two towels left on stage and gently threw them to me and Victoria. We were totally giddy. My pals in the international community who know “how I am” laughed and shook their heads. “She’ll sleep good tonight,” I could hear in the minds of several. Security even said, “I don’t get it…what joy do you get from a towel?” I told him quickly about my collection from bands all over the world.
Then I walked toward the backstage door because one of the members was standing there. I got some pictures and then security politely told us we had to go because they needed to clear the area and start breaking down the stage. The members of Tinariwen were gracious and said, “Just come with us…” And so those of us who were standing around them (about 10 of us at this point who had gotten past security’s suggestion to use the other door and leave out the front) followed like little ducks to a tiny little room…then a door opened and low and behold there the rest of the band was and the tour bus. Groups members welcomed us to hang out with them…so I had to be polite and stay right? LOL!
We spent about an hour taking picture after picture, getting autographs “Fee Arabi…la’a englessi” I began… stating that please don’t write in English on my ticket. Put it in Arabic! They laughed. I gave Hassan a kiss on the cheek which may not have been the smartest idea because in our culture that’s just being forward and fast. Haram yani…but he got over it and next thing I knew we were all cozy and chatting like brother and sister. Then Ibrahim opened the tour bus door and one of the ladies from Ethiopia got on…then another from India…and then he motioned for me to get on… “Moi?” I asked. He bowed slightly and said, “Yesss…” Well, I wasn’t gonna ask twice. My embroidered gown clad self lifted the garment so that I wouldn’t trip and fall and climbed the steps inside what may as well have been a great palace.
We sat down, tea was made and we had one of the best evenings that lasted well into 1am…there was singing, storytelling and much more as we sat their cozy and tight together. I loved it! The last time I was on a tour bus was when Bob Marley’s son Ziggy was in town and I waited an hour and half to get onboard. That little friendly family visit cost me my cultural friendship-marriage but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. So there with Tinariwen I felt right at home as if this was supposed to happen. And ceremonies began, tea was poured and conversations the likes you only see at home began…there wasn’t a topic that wasn’t discussed. It was just incredible. (video begins with concert moment)
One of the members from Café Istanbul was there and wanted to go get food and bring it for all. But the night went on and on and we were well into our little ceremony so by the time it was over I suggested she take the guys to Café Istanbul so they could see how beautiful it is. Things were moving a bit fast at this point…and I’ll leave it at that.
It was a gorgeous evening, I made some new friends and I was just absolutely amazed with the kindness and friendly nature of such a grand legendary band. If Tears for Fears are ever in the mood for a jazzy set they’ve got to add Sophie Hunger and Tinariwen to the line up. I was absolutely floored by the music, the energy…everything! It was certainly a night to remember. Victoria and I are eager for the next one!
Thanks for reading!