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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Etran Finatawa

By Tom Orr
Published March 20, 2007

Introducing Etran Finatawa
World Music Network 105

Since comparisons between Etran Finatawa and Tinariwen are a foregone conclusion, let's go ahead and compare. Tinariwen is a band of guitar-slinging Tuaregs from Mali, Etran Finatawa is a similarly inclined band of Tuaregs and Woodabes from neighboring Niger. Both groups play jangly, chugging music that testifies to the roots of blues in Africa. The differences? Well, Etran Finatawa have a harder percussion foundation and lean more toward dance than trance, though their pulsating flow hypnotizes plentifully. So while Tinariwen is a good starting reference point, this tart, gritty disc soars on its own terms. Not a lot of music from Niger is readily available, and in Etran Finatawa one hears the keening Arabic influence on Saharan music as well as a polyrhythmic sub-Saharan feel. Electric guitars and traditional instruments entwine like old friends as rustic call-and-response vocals stir up the desert heat. Comparisons aside, this debut is dynamite.