After encountering an article on the band Tinariwen, I went searching for some additional information on them. Their music is a distinctive blend of multiple traditions, including those of the members’ own Tuareg culture from Mali.
As I browsed the names of the songs for which there were videos, one title caught my eye: “Iswegh Attay,” which I suspected meant something to do with “tea” since I knew that the Moroccan Arabic word for tea is “Atay” (اتاي). As I began to watch, I was pleased to discover a beautiful film of a man brewing and serving tea in the traditional manner of the Tuareg nomads. This way of tea is similar among many of the desert cultures of Western and Northern Africa. It differs from the Moroccan tradition in its absence of fresh mint and use of much plainer, rustic tea wares.
From the band’s website:
TINARIWEN’S OWN STORY BURGEONS WITH MYTH AND MYTHOS IN THEIR HOME COUNTRY AND BEYOND. THEIR TALE IS THE STUFF OF LEGENDS. FOUNDING MEMBER IBRAHIM AG ALHABIB, GREW UP IN DESOLATION IN MALI, WHERE HE WITNESSED HIS OWN FATHER’S DEATH AT THE AGE OF FOUR. LATER, AFTER SEEING A WESTERN FILM, HE BUILT HIS FIRST GUITAR FROM A BICYCLE WIRE, A STICK AND A TIN CAN. THE BAND WAS FOUNDED IN THE 1980’S IN TUREG CAMPS IN LIBYA, WHERE THE NOMADIC PEOPLES HAD RELOCATED TO FIND WORK AND A NEW LIFE AWAY FROM THEIR HOMELAND OF THE SAHARA. DISILLUSIONED BY THE PROMISES OF QUADDAFI AT THE TIME, THE TUAREG BECAME RESTLESS AGAIN AND LONGED FOR HOME. BUT THE INTERACTION WITH CITY LIFE YIELDED UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES, THE BECAME EXPOSED TO WESTERN MUSIC — MOST NOTABLY THE GUITAR-DRIVEN ANTHEMS OF JIMI HENDRIX AND THE AMERICAN BLUES — WHICH THEY MIXED WITH THEIR OWN SOULFUL DIRGES WHICH THEY’D PERFORM IN THE CAMPS BY THE FIRE WITH BATTERY-OPERATED AMPS.
One translated line of the song: “I drank a glass of tea that scorched my heart.”
Read more about the method of brewing and serving tea shown in the video on the Cultural Website of the Sahara. The photo of the Tuareg man pouring tea accompanying this article is used under Creative Commons license, and was taken by Garrondo.
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