After the explosion several years ago of desert rock with the discovery and popularization on the fringes of North African guitar music, in recent years a kind of standardization of that sound towards a more classic four-minute format has been noticeable. The good news: the sonority, the sense of continuity and the wall of sound created by what sounds like a multitude of guitars – and sometimes even are – persist and still have a place. Etran de L’Aïr have been at it for almost three decades, moving locally – in Niger – for the purposes for which they were formed: celebratory music, usually for weddings, baptisms or other kinds of events that invite people, dancing, partying. The stage, the room, the concert-event has to be assumed as a variation of the original context. A variation where everything happens in the same way.
“Agadez”, released last year by Sahel Sounds, is composed with the exuberance of creating songs with the same tools but in a more Western rock format: much like what Mdou Moctar did on the excellent “Afrique Victime” (2021). It is not a cut with the past, “No.1” (2018), the introductory letter of Etran de L’Aïr, kept the idea of longer themes, or a compromise, but a way of adapting to the times: to the attention and the audience that has since grown beyond the one that began to discover these sounds about a decade and a half ago. With a constantly rotating line-up, the Etran de L’Aïr have at their center Aghaly Migi, who over the years has invited family members to celebrate with her an electric, inexhaustible and translucent sound. It will still be hot at the end of September. AS