The Hobart

How a Band From the Sahara Has Found Their Way to Hobart

by The Hobart Magazine
How a Band From the Sahara Has Found Their Way to Hobart

Tim Carroll, of Holy Holy fame, created A Festival Called PANAMA in 2014. Traditionally held in the northeast, the festival is now expanding with PANAMA Presents, which will debut in Hobart with Tinariwen, a band from the Sahara. We chatted with Tim about PANAMA Presents and the significance of Tinariwen.

What is the story behind A Festival Called PANAMA? The truth is long and complicated. But in some ways, it’s fair to say that Dan Rooke (my co-founder) and I both felt compelled to start a festival. It was something we talked about when we were still teenagers. Eventually, we learnt enough to start something small, and in the first year, it worked well enough that we were not ruined. We kept going and kept learning along the way. In some ways, we wanted to create the kind of event that we would want to go to; an event without any corporate branding, where the programming is inventive and interesting and meets the listeners where they are. An event that respected the land and the patrons. No plastic tents, no fluorescent lights, no litter.

You are expanding with PANAMA Presents, which promises to showcase artists of exceptional quality at venues around the island. Why did you want to do this? We have dreamt about PANAMA Presents over the decade we have been running the festival. One motivation behind presenting these one off events is that PANAMA sells just 1500 tickets each year, and there are about 12000 people on the mailing list, so a lot of people miss out. PANAMA Presents allows us to reach more people and bring powerful and important acts to lutruwita / Tasmania. Also, sometimes there will be an act that we have loved for years and years – the kind of band we would love to have at PANAMA Festival, but they aren’t touring in March, and they may not be back again for years, or ever. So, if we are to bring them here, we must find other ways of doing that.

PANAMA Presents will debut with a performance from Tinariwen. Tell us a bit about them. Tinariwen are a band of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara region of northern Mali. They are legendary and are considered to be the pioneers of desert blues. Their story is incredible. The band’s founder, Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, lost his father during an uprising in 1963. He grew up in refugee camps in Algeria and Libya and, along the way, made his own guitars from old cans and fishing line. Later, he formed bands that played weddings, and it was here that people began referring to the group as Kel Tinariwen, which in the Tamashek language translates to “The People of the Deserts” or “The Desert Boys”. For decades, war and civil unrest continued to be a feature of the region, and the band developed their sound while also taking part in military service and writing songs of rebellion. It was the release of their debut full-length album, The Radio Tisdas Sessions, in 2001 that resulted in their sound spreading outside of North Africa to audiences across the globe. Look them up and play one of their records, and you are immediately transported to another place.

What can people expect from their performance? Tinariwen has never played in lutruwita / Tasmania before, and who knows if or when they might ever come back, so it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m expecting the night to be varied, with moments of delicate intimacy and moments of wild hypnotic grooves.

Catch Tinariwen at The Odeon on Saturday 8 June.

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July 2024

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