A quick survey of Western media suggests Tuareg nationalist claims don’t carry the same weight as Malian, Nigerian or Algerian claims on Tuareg territory. For example, the current violence in Niger and Mali are covered as either a humanitarian crisis (sympathy for Tuareg refugees), Gaddafi’s legacy (rumored weapons support for the rebels from his fallen regime) or through the prism of the War on Terror (armed Tuareg groups get conflated with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb). Meanwhile, if you’re still wondering about who the Tuareg is, you have sort of been already introduced to them via the music of Tinariwen, who are unashamed about their nationalist politics. In a recent interview, Tinariwen’s Alhousseini Ag Abdoullahi says:
[W]e are military artists! In 1992, we saw that we would be much more useful to the cause by spreading our culture around the world. Today, if we see that our brothers need us armed rather than as musicians, we will go to the front line because we are always ready to answer the call of the preservation of our land, our values and our culture. This is what we do through music and we will do it again with weapons!
Most recently, Tinariwen won a Grammy for Best World Music Album and collaborrated with TV on the Radio. And when you — if you live in the US — were blinking they were discussing their time in Gaddafi’s training camps on Colbert Nation.
* For those in or traveling to New York City: They’re performing around here on April 12th.