Etran de L’Air – Agadez (Sahel Sounds)


Etran de L’Aïr translates to “the Stars of the Aïr,” the mountainous region of Northern Niger. They hail from the town of Agadez and they are all related to each other – brothers or cousins and have been playing together since 1995. Their sound is the now ubiquitous desert blues, and you can hear links to the likes of Bombino or Mdou Moctar in their elongated Tuareg riffs and propulsive metronomic percussive energy. There is something incredibly welcoming about those electric guitars, it’s warm communal music, with the band regularly playing weddings and celebrations – and you can feel this heartfelt nature of their music. It’s always reassuring, at times it’s even triumphant.

Agadez is their second album, and it feels remarkably cohesive and in tune, like it’s a live performance, and the groove they establish is intoxicating. This is music to dance to. It’s is music driven by the guitar, which has a really clean sound, though the vocal lines are really something special. Of course we can’t understand the lyrics, but that hardly seems to matter, they’re ability to know when to sing, providing the music plenty of space, and also knowing what (or where) the vocal lines need to be is near genius. This is music that gets you singing along, despite not knowing a single word. Then you look down and see your hips moving and you wonder when that started happening.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.