Etran Finatawa

Desert Crossroads

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It's that desert blues again, baby, a style that seems to have become vastly more popular in the last few years following the breakthrough by Tinariwen. Although this band follows much the same formula, they're made up not just of Tuareg but also Wodaabe people. There's a dryness to the guitar and a rolling rhythm that's reminiscent of a camel crossing the desert (much as the Tuvan singers use the rhythm of horses behind their songs). What possibly sets this group apart is that, at times, there's a deeper emphasis on percussion and its power, not just guitars or voices and the flute gives a sense of roots to the sound. There's a strong sense of cultural identity in all this; it's very much the music of the Sahara. Its lack of compromise is both its strength and weakness. Strength because it means Etran Finatawa won't lose who they are; it's a weakness if that will stop them from reaching a much wider audience, given the number of bands playing similar music now. That said, this is a strong disc, more refined than their debut, and tighter from months of touring, a satisfying slab from the true home of the blues.

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