Tinariwen is a band of Tuareg musicians. The founding member reportedly built his own guitar as a child; he used a tin can, bicycle brake wire, and a stick to make it after seeing a movie where a cowboy played a guitar. The band was formed in the late 1970s, but when Muammar al-Gaddhafi (whom we all know from current news) gave illegal refugees in Libya the chance for military training, the members of Tinariwen joined the Libyan military. In a backfire of Gaddhafi’s plan for a larger Libyan military, Tinariwen joined with a Tuareg rebel group in Libya. Later, they joined Tuareg rebellion in Mali that ended in the Tamanrasset Accords in 1991. With their military endeavors over, they devoted themselves more fully to their music, and began traveling internationally in 2001.
The band’s distinct style mixes West African traditions with modern instruments, most specifically the electric guitar, giving rise to a new style often referred to as “Electric Tuareg.” Tinariwen means “The Desert People.”