Tuareg guitarist and singer Omara “Bombino” Moctar has recorded a new album with producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, which will be released in early 2013 on Nonesuch Records. Bombino and his band traveled to Nashville over the summer to record in Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound in Nashville. Further details about the album and its release will be announced shortly, as will upcoming festival and tour dates.
Born and raised in Niger, in and around the northern city of Agadez, Bombino is a member of the Tuareg Ifoghas tribe, a nomadic people descended from the Berbers of North Africa; for centuries they have fought against colonialism and the imposition of strict Islamic rule.
The Tuareg people have fought the Niger government to secure their rights on numerous occasions, causing Bombino and his family to flee several times. During one such exile, relatives visiting from the front lines of the rebellion left behind a guitar and Bombino began teaching himself to play it. He eventually studied with the renowned Tuareg guitarist Haja Bebe, who asked him to join his band, where he acquired the nickname Bombino—a variation on the Italian word for “little child.”
While living in Algeria and Libya in his teen years, Bombino’s friends played him videos of Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler, among others, which they watched over and over in an effort to master their licks. Bombino worked regularly as a musician and also as a herder in the desert near Tripoli, spending many hours alone watching the animals and practicing his guitar. Eventually, Bombino returned to Niger, where he continued to play with a number of local bands. As his legend grew, a Spanish documentary film crew helped Bombino record his first album, Group Bombino’s Guitars from Agadez Vol. 2, which became a local radio hit.
In 2009, Bombino met filmmaker Ron Wyman, who had heard a cassette of Bombino’s music while traveling near Agadez. Wyman was enchanted by Bombino’s music and spent a year seeking him out, eventually tracking him down to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where he was in exile after two band members were killed in a rebellion. (The Tuaregs have since put down their arms and returned to Niger.) Wyman featured Bombino in a documentary he was filming about the Tuareg and also produced his 2011 solo album, Agadez.
NPR Music says Bombino’s Agadez had “some of the most sublime guitar licks you’ll hear in 2011. The songs … combine the best traits of Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, mixing killer solos with delicate repetition. The most magical moments come when Bombino finishes a verse—all sung in the Tuareg language of Tamasheq—and begins to lose himself in his guitar. You can’t help but follow him down.”
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