The title means "elephants" in Tamashek and the term is used as a metaphor for militias and corporations that have trampled the fragile natural and human ecosystems of the desert. The album was partially recorded in Joshua Tree National Park (as was its predecessor Emmaar) with additional recording in Paris, France and M'hamed El Ghizlane, Morocco. The album includes guest appearances by Matt Sweeney, Kurt Vile, Mark Lanegan, and Alain Johannes. One reviewer called the album "devastatingly beautiful," and another described the album as "musing on the values of ancestry, unity and fellowship, driven by the infectiously hypnotic cyclical guitar grooves that wind like creepers around their poetic imagery." AllMusic named Elwan as one of the best albums of 2017.
A3. Nizzagh Ijbal
B2. Ténéré Tàqqàl
B3. Imidiwàn n-àkall-in
C2. Arhegh ad annàgh
Before me march the hills
Of Tiwàyyen and Tikobawen.
In a desert where shady spots
Can easily be found.
We went by the hill of Tissinawen
Making our way towards Tihoudayen,
To be there at dusk.
We’re the companions of Tinariwen,
And not like those
Who speak ill of others.
SASTANÀQQÀM (I QUESTION YOU)
Ténéré, can you tell me of anything better
Than to have your friends and your mount,
And a brand new goatskin, watertight,
To find your way by the light
Of the four bright stars of heaven,
To know how to find water in
The unlikeliest of places,
And enlist the momentum of the wind
To help you move forward.
Tell me, Ténéré, how you and I
Can remain united, with no hate for each other.
Ténéré, I can now admit that
I have travelled far through this wide world.
Ténéré, I give you my oath
That as long as I’m alive,
I will always come back to you.
NIZZAGH IJBAL (I LIVE IN THE MOUNTAINS)
Friends, companions, I live in the mountains.
Out there, the enemy; here, only solitude.
Fighter, combatant, come this way
Come and rediscover your loves, and unity.
There have been years of engagement, mobilisation,
During which we have planned this coming together.
I want to see camps where young girls
Live, one of whom is insouciant and proud.
HAYATI (MY LIFE)
My life, my love, take care of me
A least just a little bit:
You and me together,
Night in, night out.
You with the beauty spot
Take care of yourself.
We’re under divine protection.
Your dark eyes, the eyes of a gazelle,
Still visible in the black of night.
No one can see that life is ephemeral,
Dreams and tears constant,
All life long.
ITTUS (OUR GOAL)
I ask you, what is our goal.
It is the unity of our nation
And to carry our standard high.
TÉNÉRÉ TÀQQÀL (WHAT HAS BECOME OF THE TÉNÉRÉ)
The Ténéré (1) has become an upland of thorns
Where elephants fight each other
Crushing tender grass under foot.
The gazelles have found refuge high in the mountains
The birds no longer return to their nests at night
The camps have all fled.
You can read the bitterness on the faces of the innocents
During this difficult and bruising time
In which all solidarity has gone.
The strongest impose their will
And leave the weakest behind
Many have died battling for twisted ends.
And joy has abandoned us
Exhausted by all this duplicity.
IMIDIWÀN N-ÀKALL-IN (FRIENDS FROM MY OWN LAND)
Friends from my own land
Leave me be.
Since I was born I walk
Through strange countries
Where I go astray.
My own people have abandoned
Their ancestral ways.
All that’s left is a groaning land
Full of old people and children
Oh my brothers!
You’re on the wrong path.
What’s the use of blood ties?
Our land is moaning
Full of the old, and of children.
If I see a light-skinned girl
With blossoming face
Coming out of her tent,
Dressed in a robe I know well,
My soul will want to talk to her.
And I will want to go to her.
With heart sincere, she will not hide from me
Anything that her eyes have seen.
Love can make you sick.
Only love can make you suffer.
ASSÀWT (THE VOICE OF TAMASHEQ WOMEN)
That’s the voice of the Tamashek women
Searching for their freedom.
Those are the thoughts of the old women
Living in a Sahara devoid of water,
Desiccated and miserable,
My wish is for it to stop being subservient.
This is a message for those
Who toil for the revolution.
ARHEGH AD ANNÀGH (I WANT TO TELL YOU)
Friends, every day companions
I want to tell you this:
Love these days is like a mirage.
It gets fainter the closer you get.
For ten longs years, I lost my one true love.
Love no longer crosses my path.
Truth, how I hate you
When you emerge from me.
My truth will no longer be hidden.
There was a time
I lived fulfilled.
Life taught me that
It can often change.
The one you find in solitude
Is prisoner of egotistical desires.
I have a friend I can trust
Who quenches the thirst
That burns in my heart.
I walk in his footsteps
Pursuing memories built
On a dune that’s always moving.
FOG EDAGHÀN (ON THE MOUNTAIN TOPS)
I live on mountaintops.
Heart, be patient, so that I can tell you,
Tell you the truth, over and over.
I’m thinking of going out into the Ténéré
To stop awhile and listen.
My friend, I’m telling you my truth.
And I’m ready to tell it again and again.
My soul burns and my body suffers
Whereas my heart is at peace.
Album Translations by Andy Morgan / July 2016
* Ténéré is a Tamashek word meaning empty land or desert. The plural of the word is tinariwen.