An extraordinary amount of great music came out last year and I’m still playing catch up to a certain extent, and one of the gems I missed first time around that I can’t get enough of lately is Tuareg guitarist Bombino’s album Nomad. Gaining the nickname “Bombino” (a corruption of the Italian word for “little child”) from his time in Haja Bebe’s band, Omara Moctor has lived through interesting times including two separate Tuareg Rebellions in Niger. Like his desert blues contemporaries Tinariwen, Bombino sings almost exclusively in the Tuareg language of Tamashek and his lyrics frequently address the plight of Tuareg existence in the regions of Northwest Africa which deny their nomadic way of life. During the Tuareg Rebellion of 2007-09 the guitar was banned as a symbol of rebellion and Bombino went into exile after two of his bandmates were executed, though he maintains “I do not see my guitar as a gun but rather as a hammer with which to help build the house of the Tuareg people”. On return to his home in Agadez after the conflict Bombino and his band staged a concert at the base of the city’s Grand Mosque which saw over a thousand people congregate to dance and celebrate. This event and the music of Bombino is featured in Ron Wyman’s 2011 documentary Agadez: The Music And The Rebellion, which brought Bombino to global attention and lead to the recording of his debut Agadez and then the followup Nomad, produced by Black Key Dan Auerbach.
The belter that kicks off Nomad‘s mind-melting journey through psych-tinged desert blues is ‘Amidinine’, a song that translates simply as ‘My Friend’ and Bombino explains “as humans most of us have shared experiences with friends and these are true friendships, but they don’t last. It’s a shame as it is so important”. While that statement may convey some regret, ‘Amidinine’ is nothing if not joyous. Bolstered by the steady boiler room of rootsy keyboard and percussion, Bombino’s drenched vocals and idiosyncratically bluesy guitar takes centre stage. It could reasonably be argued that nothing new has been done with the blues for forty years, but when you hear it coming from another angle like this you can’t help but be floored by it’s raw immediacy. The music is visceral and effusive, hitting the body first and the mind second. It’s a perfect opener to a revelrous, jam-oriented album and I urge you to snap it up when you get the chance. It’s heady stuff.
Bombino is currently touring North America and Nomad is available now through Nonesuch Records.