Release Date: Apr 2, 2013
Record label: Nonesuch
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Rock & Roll, International, African Traditions, African Folk, Afro-Pop, Worldbeat, Desert Blues, Nigerian, North African
Produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, this set showcases Omara "Bombino" Moctar, a firebrand guitarist from Niger rooted in the electric-blues tradition of the nomadic Tuareg tribes (see also Tinariwen, fellow denizens of the Sahara and the sound's foremost ambassadors). Bombino's style is raw, spacious, tuneful, deeply hypnotic and remarkably fluid – even when he's shooting rapid-fire notes, the effect is like ripples gently unfurling in a pond. As on last year's Locked Down, Auerbach's meaty collaboration with Dr.
Born in northern Niger, Bombino is an ethnic Tuareg, a nomadic tribe spread out across the Sahara Desert, and if he inherited a steady urge for going, it shows in his guitar playing, which is informed by the fluid, melodic, and graceful style of so many great African guitarists. But he's also listened and studied the playing of Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler closely, and maybe a little of J.J. Cale, too, another man whose guitar style embraces a sharp, dusty-tinged desert tone, and somehow out of all this, Bombino emerges as a sort of Dick Dale of the Sahara, with a guitar style that is uniquely all his own.
Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Omara “Bombino” Moctar is undeniably a man of many talents, but he seems to have his work cut out with the Saharan desert blues genre having been so convincingly sewn up by the titanic presence of Tinariwen. Finding an international audience in the shadow of one of the most acclaimed acts on the world music scene is a Herculean task. It’s lucky then that musical King Midas and one half of The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach, is on hand to produce and provide studio space at his own Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville – a far cry from Bombino’s native Niger.
Omara Moctar, better known simply as Bombino, is a Tuareg guitarist, singer and songwriter, specialising, of course, in desert blues. Unlike Tinariwen, the best-known Tuareg exponents of the music of the southern Sahara, he's not from northern Mali, but from Niger, to the east; and he is being promoted as a soloist rather than as part of a band, with his latest album produced in Nashville by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. This ought to be desert blues set with a difference, but what's surprising is that it should be so unremarkable.
The meeting of western rock stars and non-western musicians is so fraught with potential pitfalls, it's a wonder any decent records ever come of it at all. Cross-pollination is hampered by gaps in language, by preconceptions (on both sides), by label demands for a marketable product, by the suspicion that someone might be using someone, or that the wider audience being sought might be put off by music too far off their wavelengths. The opposite fear is true too: that the cognoscenti will be alienated by watered-down fusions.
The buoyant, Middle Eastern groove of Nomad's lead track "Amidinine" breaks open with a sandstorm solo of triplets and hammer-ons, daring you to imagine a recording of Mark Knopfler plugged into Jack White's amplifier – being played in reverse. The Tuareg guitarist took to a Psych Fest stage in 2012 wearing a teal dashiki, his long, skinny fingers dancing on his Stratocaster knock-off in a fierce drone of desert blues. On his second international release, the Saharan – real name Omara Moctar – teamed with Dan Auerbach, who eschewed cultural documentation in his production of Nomad.
THE BAND PERRY “Pioneer”. (Republic Nashville).