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Music  >>  CDs  >>  International

Etran De L'air

No. 1

Etran De L'air No. 1
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Based in the Northeast of Niger, Etran De L'Aïr is one of the longest running bands in Agadez. Unknown outside of their hometown, Etran is one of the hardest working bands on the wedding circuit, playing on ramshackle equipment in true DIY aesthetic. The name Etran De L'Aïr translates to "the Stars of the Aïr," the mountainous region of Northern Niger. They are based in the town of Agadez, an urban center renowned for the electric guitar and the Western named "desert blues." In the Sahara, this electric guitar genre is intertwined with social function. It's a lucrative commerce, and gigging bands make their living in weddings, baptisms, and political events. Etran De L'Aïr is one of Agadez's longest playing groups on the circuit. Yet they are also a band that has remained on the fringes, stars of the Agadez working class. Etran De L'Aïr play a style that captures the contemporary sound of Agadez, incorporating vastly different musics into their repertoire. While Tuareg guitar follows a predictable format, Etran breaks convention and throws a third guitar into the mix. The two lead guitars solo on top of one another, in constant dialogue, with a crashing response from the drum. There is a bubbly underwater warble that emerges from reverb and crackly amps. It's electric party music, surf rock, from a place that is all beach. They differentiate themselves from the other wedding bands: "... Our music is based around traditional Takamba... and we listen to a lot of Malian music. Not Tinariwen, but musicians like Ali Farka Touré and Oumou Sangaré." Etran De L'Aïr is not just a musical group, but a family collective. The group was formed in 1995. Agadez was much smaller then, few homes were electrified, and guitars were rare. As new technology found its way to Agadez, they band adapted, amplifying the acoustic guitar with a transducer microphone, acquiring electric guitars, and finding a drum set. As the family grew, so did the band, integrating the younger siblings into the musical group. This is Etran's debut record. They claim to have written over 40 songs, but none of them have been released until now. This session was recorded live in the outskirts of Agadez. The impromptu performance drew the entire neighborhood out of their houses -- eliciting the audible clapping, shouting, and ululation.

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