Call me Russ L

The desert under the Rainbow

Posted in Music by Russ L on 31 March, 2009

Your humble correspondent has spoken of Tunng on many occasions prior to this and has even at times been known to express absolute bloody adoration for their trip-folk weirdonica (oh yes, howsabout that for description). A collaboratory tour was organised (by the Contemporary Music Group) involving them and Malian desert-blues (that one is theirs, not mine) sorts Tinariwen and unsurprisingly I was hugely looking forward to the Birmingham gig, promoted by the good people behind the Moseley Folk Festival. They, incidentally, have the beginnings of their line-up for Mizoke Fizolk 2009 on flyers if not yet on their website: Jethro Tull, St Etienne, Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy with Dave Swarbrick, and Adrian Edmonson’s band, amongst various others.

To The Rainbow’s Warehouse venue, then, on Saturday the 28th of March. I’d never been to this larger annexe of The ‘Bow before but found it to be quite funky on arrival, bathed as it was in wall-projections (the roses blooming and folding back up were especially pretty) and spots of light from a mirrorball. Are the murals by the same artist as the ones at The Victoria in town? They seem to be a similar style. It was a lot nicer than most big venues, although it had the inevitable big-venue style donkey chaos at the bar (albeit in a different way to usual) – it was mostly bottles only, but had one (count ‘em, one) pump selling a Purity bitter I forget the name of. Since people quite naturally don’t want to pay the £9,381-per-round that is standard for bottle bars, there was something of a demand for the pints poured from that one (count ‘em, one) pump. Why the bloody hell would someone install a bar like that?

Tuareg turban-clad Tinariwen took to the stage (after what felt like at least six weeks of DJ-ing) to do a couple of songs on their own before being joined by Tunng. They sounded sort of familiar, but more like one might expect from a Middle Eastern band than an African one. It’s bad enough to use stereotypes and probably even worse to get the wrong one, though, so I’ll leave that there. I wish I could be more specific but I simply don’t have the frame of reference. I can say that I’ve always found the term ‘world music’ to be spectacularly patronising – Anglophone and Western European pop gets to be divided into a myriad of sub-genres, but everything from anywhere else is just ‘world music’. Craziness.

Tunng joined them, and then commenced what was modestly described from the stage as an ‘attempt to play each other’s music.’ It was wonderful, as I’ve no doubt you’re expecting me to say. I’m familiar with Tunng’s songs, and so the effect of Tinariwen on them was easier to calculate than the effect of Tunng on Tinariwen – a fair few compositions ended up sounding more choppy and syncopated than usual, certainly more in number than those that seemed to gain the aforementioned ‘Eastern’ feel. Some, of course, were largely unaltered bar an extra bit stuck in the middle.

Everything was nonetheless great. Force me to pick highlights and I’ll mention the heaviest version of “Soup” that I’ve ever heard (complete with pan-continental duelling guitars), a rhythmically enhanced version of “People Folk”, a fairly uptempo Tinariwen one that I unsurprisingly don’t know the name of, and a lovely big singalong for “Bullets”.

I realise a lot of people will find it only too easy to sneer at this sort of thing and automatically assume that it would be little more than an exercise in worthiness, but A) nuts to them; B) it wasn’t in the least bit like that; C) there was no reason in advance to assume it would be like that; and D) nuts to them (it bears repeating).

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One Response

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  1. Chris said, on 31 March, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    A top review of a top night.


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