Band of the Day

2012.02.15

Bombino

An enchanting guitar wizard from the Sahara desert
Put my heart and yours together – everywhere you go. Do not listen to the words of enemies. They can destroy a true love.
lyrics from Tar Hani (My Love)

Bombino is the project of Omara “Bombino” Moctar (b. January 1st 1980), a Niger guitarist. Bombino is Tuareg, an ancient group of nomads who make up the majority of people living in the Sahara desert. The Tuareg, who live in a number of countries including Mali, Algeria, Morocco and Burkina Faso have sought political autonomy throughout both colonial and pre-colonial rule, including the Tuareg Rebellion of 1990 that drove Bombino and his family from Niger. Much of Bombino's music is concerned with political issues, and a documentary titled “Agadez, The Music and Revolution” was created about his music and his people’s struggles for freedom. Bombino recorded a hi-fidelity album, Agadez which was released in April, 2011 on Cumbancha records.

You can't seperate Bombino from the Saharan desert landscape, and the Tuareg people he comes from. The Niger singer and guitarist's music is steeped in the tradition of his West African homeland, and his lyrics focus on the importance of community and freedom for his people. Born in Agadez, Niger in 1980, Omara "Bombino" Moctar comes from the Tuareg people, an ancient group spread across the Saharan desert, and multiple countries. Bombino was forced from his home at the age of ten as a result of political instability, but was able to come home years later, where he formed a band to spread awareness of the Tuareg's goal of autonomous rule. The Tuareg are tradionally nomadic, roaming the harsh desert landscape making crafts, and engaging in trade and agriculture. The Saharan dunes are clearly essential to Bombino, in "Tenere (The Desert, My Home)" he sings "We live in the most beautiful space and the hardest space for life/Wide open spaces of the desert!/In the desert! Desert! In the desert!"

Bombino's music is contemplative and hypnotic, as if in homage to the awe-inspiring expanse of the sandy dunes that surround him. Bombino's singing is excellent, but his latest album Agadez is undoubtedly centered around one thing: electric guitar. His lead guitar is everywhere, uncoiling in spellbinding riffs in the tradition of West African greats like Ali Farka Touré. Bombino is grounded in the traditional music of his people, but it's clear that this guy's no stranger to Jimi Hendrix. His Fender Stratocaster is dipped in distortion, and he periodically explodes into lightning bursts of blues-based riffage. "Tar Hani (My Love)" combines one of Bombino's most passionate and catchy vocal lines with a shuffling rhythm and beautifully meandering lead guitar. It sounds mysterious, as does most of the album thanks to the entrancing drums and undecipherable lyrics (unless you speak Tuareg), but the mystique is spiked with a sunny levity, much like Mexican guitar legend Santana. “Kammou Taliat (You, My Beloved)” begins with a circular guitar riff that will put you in a blissful trance. The whimsical, yearning vocals are perfect for the instrumentation, but the real treat is when Bombino let's loose a dense stream of ecstatic lead guitar jams.

Agadez is an enchanting glimpse into the world of Tuareg guitar music. The mixture of Bombino's vocal hooks, and hypnotic bluesy guitar is gorgeous, even if the lyrics remain a mystery.