ETRAN DE L'AÏR
The name Etran de L’Aïr translates to “the Stars of the Aïr,” the mountainous region of Northern Niger. They are based in the town of Agadez, an urban center of the desert, and a city reknowned for the production of music – in particular the electric guitar and the so-called “desert blues,” popularized as late by bands such as Mdou Moctar and Bombino. Agadez is a guitar town, and boasts dozens of bands. All of these groups are working musicians. In the Sahara, this style of electric guitar is intertwined with a social function. Bands are ceremonial, and are hired out to play in weddings, baptisms, and political events. It is possible to make a living from this “wedding circuit,” and Agadez is a center of this lucrative commerce. In the circuit of wedding bands of Agadez, Etran de L’Aïr is the best known and longest playing groups. Yet they are also a band that has remained on the fringes of success.
Etran is not just a musical group, but a family collective. Formed in 1995, an eternity ago in the Sahara, Etran was founded by member Aghaly Migi. Over the years, he taught his younger brothers to play, and integrated them into the group. Agadez was much smaller than, there was little electricy, and the electric guitar was rare. When the band began, they only had one acoustic guitar, and the rhythm section was a calabash floating in water “hit with a sandal, to make a drum.” When amplification eventually found its way to Agadez, the acoustic guitar was modified, using a transducer microphone. In the past 10 years, the band was able to acquire more material – a drum set, a few electric guitars. As the family grew, so did the band. Today, all the members are related, brothers and cousins. The size fluctuates per performance, between 5 and 9.