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For our Geo Quiz we were looking for a northern African country that's home to a number nomadic tribes. The answer is Niger. The band Etran Finatawa is from Niger. Its members come from two of the nomadic groups in the region, the Wodaabe and Touareg tribes. The band's new album is called ?Tarkat Tajje? or ?Let's Go!?
MARCO WERMAN: Finally, for our Geo Quiz we were looking for a West African country that's home to a number nomadic tribes. The answer is Niger. The band Etran Finatawa is from Niger. Its members come from two of the nomadic groups in the region, the Wodaabe and Touareg tribes. The band's new album is called Tarkat Tajje or Let's Go! It's unusual to see different tribes mixing their traditions, so I spoke with two musicians from the band about their work. Alhousseini Mohammed Anivolla, who sings, composes and arranges, is Touareg. As the leader on this traditional song, Anivolla sets the rhythm with handclaps. Fellow band member Bagui Bouga is Wodaabe. Here he's clapping out a typical Wodaabe rhythm. Both musicians say there are strong ties between their tribes.
WERMAN: Bagui Bouga says Wodaabe and Touareg people are both nomads. They have different traditions and different languages. But, he says, they often share the same land and the same water wells. Anivolla agrees.
WERMAN: He says the Tuaregs traditionally rely on raising camels, while other tribes may raise cows and goats. But, he stresses, we lead very similar lives. We look for water wells and rivers, and we set up camp every night, often side by side. Still, it was surprising for audiences in Niger to see the members of Etran Finatawa side by side on stage. The three Wodaabe members of the band wear leather tunics, their faces are painted in bright colors, they dance and connect with people in the audience. On the other hand, the Touareg carry themselves more soberly, covered from head to toe with turbans and long robes. When it comes to singing, though, the band uses both the Wodaabe and Touareg languages. And over the years, people in Niger have gotten used to the idea of the band mixing up their two cultures as in this song, ?Aitimani.? Anivolla says this song is a call to his nomad brothers to protect their traditions.
WERMAN: Hold on to your culture, he says. Because without your identity, you will lose yourself and all that you have created. For the band Etran Finatawa, cultural preservation is a philosophy that goes beyond song lyrics. The group has launched a project in schools in Niger to remind kids where they come from.
WERMAN: Baji Buga says the band is hoping to make Wodaabe and Touareg culture part of the national curriculum. He says kids already love their music and that's yielded one big dividend for Etran Finatawa. The school kids have spread the world about the band. The band Etran Finatawa from Niger ends our program today. From the Nan and Bill Harris studios at WGBH, I'm Marco Werman. Thank you for listening.