22 July 2010

Etran Finatawa Brings the Desert to Seattle, NYC

Plaintive. Haunting. Hypnotic. Certain adjectives seem unavoidable when describing the music of the North African desert, whether it's Moroccan gnawa trance tunes, the acoustic magic of Ali Farka Toure, or the electric guitar interplay of Tinariwen.

Etran Finatawa is sometimes compared to Mali-based Tinariwen, perhaps because Tinariwen are one of the few reference points some listeners have for such desert music. Yet while the music on Etran Finatawa's latest CD Tarkat Tajje / Let's Go! sports a familiar jangly guitar sound on tracks such as "Aitimani," others (such as "Daandé") remind me more of the sparser rhythm-plus-vocals sound of Tartit, a group I heard long before Tinariwen made the scene. Plus, perhaps, some of the groove of Ali Hassan Kuban.

Formed back in 2004, the Niger-based band of tuaregs and wodaabe recorded this third album (after Introducing Etran Finatawa in 2005 and Desert Crossroads in 2007) in the middle of a tour of Europe in 2009. Like me, you may not understand the lyrics, which concern social, moral, political, and environmental issues along with love, courting, and dancing. The energy and authenticity of the music more than compensate, giving the listener easy entry into a world where familiar instruments are used in exotic, engaging ways.

Etran Finatawa is finishing up a US tour; you have just a couple chances left to see them:
26 July at Neumo's Seattle, WA, USA
1 August at Lincoln Center Festival Outdoors, New York City, NY, USA

More Etran Finatawa:
Listen/Buy Tarkat Tajje / Let's Go

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