Filed Under:

In A Desert Encampment, Songs Of A Vanishing Way Of Life

In January, English musician and record producer Colin Bass found himself in the midst of an extraordinary assignment. Bass had traveled, with microphones and recording equipment in tow, to the Sahara desert to meet up with a musical group called Etran Finatawa.

"They come from Niger, next to Mali, in West Africa," Bass says. "Etran Finatawa is a band that is made up — unusually — of two sets of musicians, who stem from nomadic tribes. On the one side you've got the Tuaregs, and on the other side you've got the Wodaabe. Normally they didn't mix together because they would be rivals in the old days, when they could live their nomadic lifestyle."

Bass was there to oversee what would become The Sahara Sessions — an album recorded in a tent under the stars. Its central theme hinges on what all the musicians in Etran Finatawa have in common.

"They've come together because the nomadic peoples, as a whole, are actually threatened — their lifestyle is threatened," Bass says. "All the songs are about this disappearing lifestyle. It's a plea for tolerance and it's a plea for the various peoples of the area to come together and live together."

Colin Bass spoke with NPR's Linda Wertheimer; click the audio link to hear their conversation.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit


'Steve Jobs': As Ambitious As Its Title Character

Danny Boyle's new biopic, Steve Jobs, is a look at the man who made Apple mean computers, not fruit. NPR film critic Bob Mondello says it's an invigorating story told in three acts of crisis.

Could A Mushroom Save The Honeybee?

The bees that pollinate crops are on the brink of collapse. One big reason why: a virus-carrying mite. Now, researchers think a rare fungi could boost bees' immune system and attack the mite itself.

'Quartet' Member: Nobel Peace Prize Is 'Very Important For Tunisia'

NPR's Kelly McEvers speaks with Wided Bouchamaoui, president of the Tunisian Employers' Union, and a member of the National Dialogue Quartet in Tunisia, about winning the Nobel Peace Prize Friday.

Volkswagen Faces Uphill Battle In Repairing Tarnished Reputation

Volkswagen faces two enormous repair jobs: fixing its polluting diesel cars and its battered reputation. Both may be much harder to fix than anything other scandal-plagued car companies have faced.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.