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Etran de L’Aïr pay tribute to their hometown in debut album

The Nigerien band’s new project will invoke the exuberance of weddings in their beloved Agadez, capital of Saharan rock. 

Playing for over 25 years, Etran de l’Aïr (or “stars of the Aïr Region”) have emerged as key figures of the local wedding circuit. The group is a family band composed of brothers and cousins, sons of nomadic families that settled in Aïr in the 1970s fleeing drought. Beloved for their dynamic repertoire of hypnotic solos and sun kissed melodies, they are now preparing the release of their first studio album via Sahel Sounds, a tribute to their desert metropolis.

From the days of the Trans-Saharan caravan in the 14th century to a modern-day stopover for Europe-bound migrants, Agadez is a city that stands at a crossroads where artists come to cut their teeth in a competitive, winner-take-all scene. Guitar bands are an integral part of the social fabric, playing in weddings, baptisms, and political rallies. Whereas other Tuareg guitarists look to Western rock, Etran de L’Aïr play in a pan-African style, citing a myriad of cultural influences, from Northern Malian blues, Hausa bar bands, to Congolese Soukous. “We play for the Tuareg, the Toubou, the Zarma, the Hausa,” Moussa “Abindi” Ibra, the current band leader, explains. 

Recorded at home with a mobile studio, their eponymous album stays close to the band’s roots. The project will be rooted in celebration, with an overwhelming abundance of guitars, as simultaneous solos playfully pass over one another with a restrained precision, forceful yet never overindulgent. Two tracks are already available: the dreamy ballad “Toubouk Ine Chihoussay” (“The Flower of Beauty”), which dives into call and response lyrics, and “Adounia”, designed for dancing.

Etran de L’Aïr will perform live at Le Guess Who? as part of the Hidden Musics project.

Agadez by Etran de L’Aïr, out on February 18, 2022 via Sahel Sounds.