Ibrahim Ag Alhabib is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who founded the Grammy Award winning Tuareg blues band Tinariwen. As a child growing up in exile in Algerian refugee camps after fleeing war-torn Mali, Ibrahim did not have access to instruments and made his first guitar out of a tin can, a stick, and bicycle brake wire. “When we had to leave for Algeria, the Malian army gave to each family a water jerrican (jug) for the journey. Some of us used it as a percussion, some of us built guitars out of them. It was a good early training, and I got my style of playing from this,” Ibrahim told The Beijinger’s Kyle Mullin.
Ibrahim formed Tinariwen with other musicians he met while in guerrilla training camps in Libya where they began writing songs about their situation. They began recording their music on cassette tapes which found their way thousands of miles across the Sahara dessert and became rebel music with a cause for the Tuareg people. Since the end of the 90s the band has been performing all over the world, bringing a unique sound to the audience and representing the culture of the Tuareg people. Over the years, Tinariwen has shared the stage with artists such as Carlos Santana, Robert Plant or Herbie Hancock.
How we met:
Our first encounter with Ibrahim and Tinariwen was during the Glastonburry festival, in 2009. The Omagh Community Youth Choir and Tinariwen were both joining the PFC Band as special guests, and we were waiting for Tinariwen so we could rehearse their song Imidiwan Afrik Tendam. Tinariwen’s members showed up in beautiful traditional blue outfits, with turbans covering their faces and their guitars on the shoulder. Despite the continuous English rain that was falling, we were all transported to the Saharan desert.