Etran Finatawa, Tarkat Tajje / Let’s Go!
A healing halo of heavenly music inspired by harsh conditions
After introducing themselves on 2006's appropriately titled Introducing, then painting an aural portrait of their culture on 2008's Desert Crossroads, this desert-blues septet, representing Niger's nomadic Tuareg and Wodaabe tribes, settles in for a long night of music making on Tarka Tajje/Let's Go! With seven of its 10 tracks clocking in at more than six minutes, Tarka Tajje sandboards atop a trancelike wave built on hand drums, calabash, shaken metal rings, handclaps, call-and-response vocals and guitarist/songwriter Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla's circular bluesy insouciance. Opening track "Aitmani" ("My Brothers"), a sunset celebration of fraternal jamming, establishes a vibe the rest of the album expands upon with effortlessly graceful and surprisingly subtle variations.
"Life is always surprising and sometimes misleading and always changing," sings Bagui Bouga in "Duuniyaaru Dillii" ("Life Is Passing"). Bouga, the group's other primary songwriter, sings in a lighter tenor than Anivolla, and his best tunes, such as "Ndiiren" ("Move"), pack a more pensive punch. The album's only real change of pace is "Daandé," which omits guitars entirely for a gender-bending female traditional tune praising the looks of a good-looking Wodaabe dude. Otherwise, not a track on the album fails to draw you into a healing halo of heavenly music inspired by harsh conditions. Etran Finatawa's pentatonic scales could easily prove the tonic for what ails you, too.