Sunday, April 08, 2012

What does Tinariwen, a Rock Band from Deserts of Sahara teach Entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurs in India have so many excuses for not being able to do things, for not being able to come up with a world class product/service, for not being able to get the best of the resources. This is the most common point of discussion on the start-up circuit. People meet, exchange the progress and go on to worry about the state of affairs in Indian scene from the lack of VCs to lack of dedicated professionals to lack of infrastructure to lack of everything.

 I agree that the problems discussed are true and it does affect the business/dhanda. In my understanding the best technologies, products, designs, ideas and research should come out from places like South East Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe as they need them more and solutions to our problems should be solved by us. But why is it not happening? I would blame it to lack of self belief and the scapegoat called lack of things. 

Winner of Grammy's 2012, Tinariwen, a rock band from Africa  teaches us how we can defeat the circumstances and come out as winners. They are from Sahara ,deserts of Northern Mali, which has been plagued with violent resistance movement for more than fifty years. It was here that the founder Ibrahim formed the band in 1979 and their journey began ( You can read about them here and here  ) from the struggles of the life in deserts to the band which is being touted as the best guitar based rock band  of the 21st century.

Tinariwen did not fret about not having the best guitars and amps. In fact at first they only played acoustics as it was easy to carry it around the camps. Also they did not look at the west and copied them in every sense. They simply used the instruments and expressed themselves through their language, melodies ( A lesson for Parikramas, Orangestreets and Bhayanak Mauts). Tinariwen is also called rebel guitar poets as they sing about Tuareg culture and the various problems it is facing due to modernization. In the process their guitar rifts are out of this world, forcing the most acclaimed western musicians like Robert Plant, Santana, RHCP, Nels Cline(Wilco) to hail them as the real blues player and precursor to Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and  B B King; and rocking the rock world with the best live acts.

We in India also have to look at the similar approach. Traditionally we have done more with the less. We are not the land of abundance as the west has now become. Even there the best of the start-ups ,who go on to become formidable forces have the same approach, which is to solve their problem as efficiently as possible. It seems it has become the norm to copy a successful western model like E Commerce or IT Services or Digital Media or Automobile and scale it here. I do not need to take names as one can see around and find out. It's like we are buying tools which are bigger and better only to realize that we did not need them in the first place. On the top of it we complain about not being able to get the best of the tools. A band like Tinariwen teaches us that a real world class product or services can be produced in India with our very own resources. Our cars have synthetic fabrics, our houses are replicas of European houses, our website designs have western faces, our phones lack any design and so on. 

With slight change in our attitude and lots of hard work I am sure we will be able to solve our problems and in the process make this place a lot better than what it is now. I am leaving you with  links of Tinariwen's live performance in Womad where they rocked the crowd. Just listen to their guitar rifts, call and response singing and the rhythm patterns of djembe and tinde. 

Womad Performance

NPR Performance

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