Saharan rock filled with euphoria and pride.
The beauty of Agadez, the second album from Etran de L’Aïr, is that it proudly wears its influences like a quilt of honour. Whilst the band, hailing from Agadez in Niger, certainly are steeped in Tuareg rhythms and sounds, they make it more accessible to a wider audience by spicing it up. Add in a bit of psych-rock, pan African rhythms and some very catchy vocal chants and you have a party of blues you can dance to.
You can tell the band have been together for years even if this is only their second full-length release. The effortless way the guitar snakes around unfettered by rigid beat structure is phenomenal. Opener “Imouwizla” demonstrates the quick-fingered nature of the guitarists and the shuffling percussion that are the foundations of every track. The guitars are phased in and out like a 70’s psychedelic track like winds of sand. Single “Toubouk Ine Chihoussay” showcases Etran de L’Aïr’s superb vocal riffs too. It sounds and feels like a travelling folk piece but with a free spirit and the rock interludes back that up. “Tahawerte Ine Idinette” is the perfect campfire rock track. Its free-flowing joy pours out over the speakers like a community hug.
If you are looking for something more traditionally Tuareg, with its tripping beats and village calls, tracks like “Tchingolene” serve that purpose. If you want some real Saharan vibes as if it’s piped through an old speaker “Nak Igley Ismadarana” is a riot. It doesn’t matter if the production switches up, every song has a beat and a bounce to it. There’s a samba element to “Tarha Warghey Ichile” with loads of metal percussion smashing away behind tight riffs and vocal sways. The tempo speeds up into a frenzied finale like the climax of a huge party. The album just leaves a gleeful smile on my face throughout.
It’s a difficult feeling to describe musically but the way how most of the songs are structured and performed remind me of rubber. The riffs, vocal arrangements, production and sometimes percussion feel elastic. The start of a musical bar will see all the instruments trickle or noodle to a certain note and then they’ll hold it and work their way back again. Its evocative of many traditional folk dances where you move forward, perform a pose or move, and then return back to your place in the troupe. This is the Sarahan rock equivalent.
I hope that many other music lovers will take the time to dive into this album because it is a blast. The merger of psyche-rock, traditional African percussion and pan-African rock influences is fantastic. This is the barn dance album for rockers. Grab it.
Recommended track: Tahawarte Ine Idinette
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