31 January 2013

The Sahara Sessions

Recording Etran Finatawa in Niger, January 2013

The studio in the desert

January 6th - off to Niger to record a new album with Etran Finatawa, the band of Tuareg and Wodaabe musicians that I had the pleasure of working with on their previous album Tarkit Tajje, which we recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studio in England during one of their European tours. This time they wanted to do something that would symbolize the recurrent theme of many of their songs: the disappearance of the nomadic way of life that spawned their cultures. So it was decided to venture out of Niamey, the capital of Niger where they live and return to the desert and record in a tent that they erected specially for the purpose.
Here's some photos showing how it's done!

1. Find the only tree on the plain

2. Unload the studio equipment and kitchen utilities

3. Bring the wooden supports
4. Choose the spot
5. Dig the holes for the poles
6. Order some firewood
7. Taking shape
8. Put on the roof
9. Add the trimmings
10. Create interest from the locals
11. Goumar prepares the dinner

12. Pose for photos in front of completed tent. l-r: Goumar Abdul Jamil, Bammo Agonla, Alhousseini Anivolla, Mamane Tankare
13. Set up recording equipment (Zoom R 24 - runs on AA batteries!)

15. Start recording (l-r: Ayouba, Alhouis, Bammo)
16. Turn Marshall Amp up to 11 (l-r: Gourma, Mamane, Ayouba)
17. Alhousseini Anivolla

We recorded in the tent on the extremely useful Zoom r-24 recorder over three days. As the sun went down, people from the village about a mile away would wander over and sit around the campfire, listening. I put a couple of ambient mics outside and recorded the chatter, asked them to clap along occasionally and got the children to sing chanting songs. Some of these have been used as atmospheric inserts into the mix. Also on the album are some excerpts of some lengthy recordings of our special guests on the third day,the renowned griot Abdouraman Ag Ibrahim and four singing / drumming ladies: Bintou Wallet Abouba, Bintou Wallet Albachir, Animatou and Ingadou.

Here they are warming up outside the tent (with Bammo doing some excellent animation):

and here they are jamming with the band inside the tent:

 The results were mixed in my studio in North Wales and the album, "The Sahara Sessions", will be released in June 2013 by World Music Network

Here is another selection of my photos :

Fulani village

Bammo dances to Griot and the Tuareg Ladies

Jamming with Griot and the Tuareg Ladies

Having a lovely time



  1. I see, easier to take pictures than to be pictured, dear Colin, hu?
    Well, sorry for my jke.
    I a outside now, in the desert there. Your job (photos and posts made my day!
    I was born in Madagascar, and live my childhood "in the woods", not insane, really in the woods! And in nature, fire, sand, sun. So many memories come with your pictures and little movies, thanks for sharing: it brings me back there, in a time where things were wild, gone now. As what want to express Etran Finatawa, tribute to what was their traditions of nomad life. Did I get it well? Anyway, nice to travel this way, thanks again. See you on tour.

  2. Oui Papayeti, tu as compris bien. Merci. J'ai travaillé avec quelque musiciens Malagasy mais je n'ai jamais été là. Ah, mais j'aime bien la musique a partir de lá. Yes, see you on tour.

  3. Very difficult to perform in this kind of dessert areas. Hats-off to those musicians, who have the awareness of such humanity lives. Thanks for sharing this post.

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