Album Notes

 Etran Finatawa’s hypnotic desert blues are as captivating and distinctive as the band themselves. They are the only group in the world to combine the cultures of the Wodaabe and Touareg people from Niger, and together they create a wholly unique blend of nomadic blues.

Niger has served as a crossroads between the Arabs of North Africa and the sub-Saharan traditions for thousands of years. Located south of Algeria and north of Nigeria, it is an area of incredibly rich musical and cultural heritage. The Touareg (renowned around the world as desert nomads) and Wodaabe (distinctive in their colourful traditional dress and striking face paints) are just two of eleven tribes in the area.

Despite different heritages and languages, Etran Finatawa, meaning ‘the stars of tradition’, are the first ever group to use the songs and music of the Wodaabe in a modern context. The Wodaabe traditions add an incredible vibrancy to the music, with distinctive polyphonic singing and mesmerizing percussion adding another layer to the Touareg traditions. Together, they draw on their shared experience as nomads of the Sahelian savannah to produce an explosion of desert blues, full of acoustic percussion and haunting melodies.

Formed in 2004, Etran Finatawa quickly became popular in Niger and were invited to perform at festivals in Mali and Morocco. They released their BBC Award-nominated debut, Introducing Etran Finatawa, in 2006, and released a second album, Desert Crossroads – a nostalgic look at life in the desert – in 2008. Since their creation they have toured all over the world, including stops in Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Singapore, South America and Europe.

Tarkat Tajje/Let’s Go!

I visited the band in Niamey, Niger, in February 2009 to listen, for the first time, to the new songs for this album. Before I arrived, they had told me that I would be surprised, and they were not wrong! What an incredible new groove, new arrangements, mature voices and sophisticated lyrics…

They had begun to write and compose much more closely together. In the process, they had created a more unique sound with which to voice their ideas and concerns regarding their endangered traditional way of life. It felt that this album would be a new step on the road of their exciting musical journey.

It was not until July – in the middle of a hectic tour of the USA and Europe – that the five herdsmen began recording Tarkat Tajje/Let’s Move! in England. Bagui was explaining the lyrics of ‘Duuniyaaru Dillii’ to me and I was struck by the maturity that Etran Finatawa have reached since they first began making music together:

Life is always changing, life is so strange and sometimes it seems unreal
It makes one frightened
We want to work, to study, we want to make relationships,
get to know everything and to feel good
But life is always surprising and sometimes misleading and always changing

Etran Finatawa use music as a means to communicate their thoughts and philosophies. Their last album, Desert Crossroads, was an exploration of the realities of being a nomad in a changing society, but this new album reaches a whole new philosophical level. They have begun to explore their role as human beings and cultural ambassadors in a society of continuous global change.  

This album is more than a statement. It is an appeal to a global consciousness and to the decision makers and reactors all over the world. As Alhousseini says in ‘Imuzaran’:

Those who are leading the world
pay attention to the tears of the children of this world
that you are spending every morning
and the tears of the women and the men.
Because you are responsible for wars and the men dying.
Children have lost their fathers and wives their husbands.
Pay attention to this because it is you sending those men to wars.
You are responsible for the tears falling every morning.

Etran Finatawa are sending out a powerful message. They demand to be heard, and when I’m listening to them recording the poignant ‘Ummee Ndaaren’ (‘Stand Up And Go For The Right Thing’), I feel that it would be nigh on impossible not to listen…

Sandra van Edig

For more information visit www.etranfinatawa.com

Song Descriptions

01      Aitimani (My Brothers)
(words Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla/Bammo Agonla, music Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla)

The lyrics of this song conjure up a magical time around sunset, when the whole family unites to talk, sing and be together.

02      Diam Walla (No Water)
(words Bammo Agonla, music Bammo Agonla/Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla, arr Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla)

This reflects on the problems that communities have when there is no water and the weather is only getting hotter.

03      Aitma (Brother)
(Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla)

‘Aitma’ is an appeal to all men and women of different races and nations to start celebrating their shared similarities, instead of constantly seeing differences.

04      Ndiiren(Move)
(words Bagui Bouga, music Bagui Bouga/Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla, arr Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla)

Written to encourage young Wodaabe singers and dancers, this song calls them to move their bodies and make their ostrich feathers dance!

05      Gourma (Forest)
(words Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla, music Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla, Kana Ahmed, Haddani Alhousseini)

In Tamashek, ‘Gourma’ means ‘forest’, which is traditionally where nomadic people live during the cold season. This song speaks about how the forest reclaims its people back from the refugee camps.

06      Daandé (Daandé)
(trad, arr Bammo Agonla)

A song traditionally sung by girls, Daandé is a Wodaabe boy who is very handsome, with long hair and a long neck – the epitome of Wodaabe beauty.

07      Duuniyaaru Dillii (Life Is Passing)
(words Bagui Bouga, music Bagui Bouga/Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla, arr Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla)

This song is Bagui’s reflection on life – how it is constantly passing us by and changing, even if we don’t want it to!

08      Imuzaran (The Leaders)
(Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla)

Alhousseini laments that there are so many problems between the people of the world. He argues that leaders are responsible for the loss of men after their decisions to send them into war.

09      Ummee Ndaaren
(words Bagui Bouga, music Bagui Bouga/Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla, arr Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla)

This is a political song, coming from Bagui’s experience in his community, about how people need to stand up and react when the wrong leader is appointed.

10      Kalamoujar (Brotherhood)
(words Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla, music Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla, Kana Ahmed, Haddani Alhousseini)

Composed in Niamey, this is a song about brotherhood – about men who come together to share ideas and stand in unity to defend them.

Press Quotes

'Together, they create a deep desert blues that calls out into the Sahara and pulls the voices of western Africa into a powerful, riveting sound' Seattle Weekly

'driving, gloriously repetitive, traditional music mixed with some of the slickest and most beautiful electric guitar imaginable... they combine to present a sublime sound' Sydney Morning Herald, 4****stars

'unlike anything we’ve heard from other ‘desert blues’ bands before' Songlines, 4****stars

'a sterling canon of recordings to match their compulsive live performances' fRoots