The touring and recording band consists of six players three of whom are Tuareg and three, Wodaabe-Fulani. In Niger the Wodaabe and the Tuareg live side by side on the desert’s fringes sharing pastures and water sources which sometimes leads to feuding. They work together to be strong and to give their cultures a future in this changing world. The music of the two tribes is very different but their combinationhas produced a powerful and hypnotic sound and a new musical style. By 2005 Etran Finatawa were touring Europe and they appearing at WOMAD in 2006.
Afterwards they travelled the wider world. In Niger their music has a cult following and their songs are sung by the young and school children all over the country. The traditional Wodaabe chants are a remarkable blend of choral polyphony and high tenor solos. They wear their traditional long embroidered tunics, leather hose and turbans with ostrich feathers as they would at their annual desert festivals. They adorn their faces with yellow spots and stripes to enhance their looks, and accompany their vocal music with the traditional calabasse (gourd) drums and a slow motion type of movement verging on dance and handclapping.
In contrast, the Tuareg use a variety of string instruments, tende drums and ululations to animate their songs and dances and, since the 1970s, they have also used the guitar. This guitar style is called Ichumar and came out of their rebellion and exile in Libya. They wear long flowing garments and touareg turbans. From the richness of these two united but distinct cultures they compose and sing their songs in two different languages, the Tuareg Tamashek and the Wodaabe Fulfulde. Their songs tell tales from nomadic life, of isolation and liberty, of extreme hardship and poverty, of a harsh climate, of beautiful women and happy days, of life-giving animals and handsome beasts, of festivities and families, of stars and desert storms.
Some of their songs are healing songs; they use music as a therapy in both cultures. In this interchange of modern and traditional songs, handclapping and rich percussion often lead the songs and are an invitation to dance while the solo guitar of Alhousseini Anivolla gives a special Blues groove to their music. Their melodies, rhythms and vocals create a sound picture of the grasslands of the Sahel and arid desert. The rich and heady blend of the particular vocal sound of the Wodaabe singers, Bammo Agonla and Bagui Bouga, the strong singing voice of the Touareg Alhousseini Anivolla and the polyphonic chorus of the whole band is the highly innovative, unique and rich sound and performance of Etran Finatawa.
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