"Our basic training was in guerrilla tactics," says Alhousseini Abdoulahi. "We all know how to use guns."
In the Eighties, Abdoulahi and his bandmates were fighters in the Touareg insurgency against the Malian government. Exiled from their nomadic lives in the Sahara, they spent time in Colonel Gaddaffi's Libyan rebel camps, attacking military bases and causing so much havoc that the government eventually sat down to discuss peace with them.
Now the Touareg collective Tinariwen have ditched their guns for guitars and promote a rebellion exclusively of the mind and spirit. But, in tune with the other artists on this unique triple bill, their take on fighting talk is still enough to shame the likes of The Libertines.
Put together by Music Beyond Mainstream, a circuit of major UK venues dedicated to breaking down barriers, African Soul Rebels is an opportunity to hear some of the most innovative and provocative music on the planet.
Released from the realms of easylistening venues and the "world music" rack, it is the sound of a continent which knows no less than we do about rock, dance music and rap.
"People say to me, 'You're playing rock music, are you really an Arab?'," says Rachid Taha, who recently released an Arabic rewrite of The Clash's Rock The Casbah. "There's so much disinformation out there. So come and see us, listen to us, touch us ñ this is our music and we're definitely for real."
While Tinariwen play stark, hypnotic blues in which snaking guitar is laid over clip-clop camel rhythms, Taha combines dirty digital beats and throat-shredding vocals with an Egyptian string orchestra in a way which has led reviewers to ponder:
"If the Happy Mondays' Shaun Ryder had been born in Algeria..." "In the Eighties I opened my own club in Lyon because North Africans weren't allowed into mainstream nightclubs in France," he explains.
"I played everything from the Egyptian diva Oum Lathoum to Kraftwerk. It became home to all outsiders and minorities: Arabs, punks, gays, whoever. Politics forced us together and now I make music for everybody who feels that way."
There's perhaps no better indication of the inclusivity of this evening than the fact that the third act, Daara J, are a pair of former accountants. Without access to technology, they started rapping over instrumental tracks on bootleg mix tapes found in Senegal markets. Hailed as one of the best-ever hip hop albums, 2004's Boomerang is a sonically smooth yet polemically biting blend of raga, jazz and rap. "You call it rap but we sing tassu, a music which has been sung in Senegal for centuries," says singer Faada Freddy. "These are the real roots of rap, they just had to go to America to grow."