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32 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 19, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

About the Artist

Omara "Bombino" Moctar, whose given name is Goumar Almoctar, was born on January 1st, 1980 in Tidene, Niger, an encampment of nomadic Tuaregs located about 80 kilometers to the northeast of Agadez. He is a member of the Ifoghas tribe, which belongs to the Kel Air Tuareg federation. His father is a car mechanic and his mother takes care of the home, as is the Tuareg tradition. Bombino was raised as a Muslim and taught to consider honor, dignity and generosity as principal tenets of life.

The Tuareg, known amongst themselves as the Kel Tamasheq, have long been recognized as warriors, traders and travelers of the Sahara Desert - as a people of grace and nobility as well as fighters of fierce reputation. They are a nomadic people descended from the Berbers of North Africa and for centuries have fought against colonialism and the imposition of strict Islamic rule.

Bombino spent his early childhood between the encampment and the town of Agadez, the largest city in northern Niger (population about 90,000) and long a key part of the ancient Sahara trade routes connecting North Africa and the Mediterranean with West Africa. One of seventeen brothers and sisters (including half brothers and half sisters from both his mother and father), Bombino was enrolled in school in Agadez, but he demonstrated his rebellious spirit early on and refused to go. Bombino's grandmother took him in to keep his father from forcing him to go to school, and, like most Tuareg children, he grew up living with his grandmother.

Eventually, Bombino gave in and began attending a French-Arabic school that taught both French and classic Arabic. After three years, he left the school and at the age of nine he returned to his grandmother to live the life of an independent Tuareg child. The Tuareg culture is matriarchic, and the elder women are considered the chiefs of the community, the wise sages that represent the power of life, generosity and knowledge. Bombino's grandmother instilled in him the Tuareg moral code in order for him to grow up as a respected member of society. Young Tuareg boys are called "arawan n tchimgharen", or "grandmother's children", a term that is considered a badge of honor.

In 1984, a drought hit Niger and Mali, killing most of the region's livestock, forcing people to leave the countryside and move into the cities or migrate to Algeria and Libya. Eventually, Tuareg communities in those countries organized a rebellion to defend their rights, as they felt overlooked and underrepresented by local governments. Before the fighting began, rebels began teaching the community about the goals of the rebellion through song and the recently adopted guitar. Musicians such as Intayaden, Abreyboun of Tinariwen, Keddo, Abdallah of Niger and others sang popular songs that proclaimed the rights and heritage of the Tuaregs. The style was called "ishoumar" which derives from the French word "chomeurs" or "unemployed", because Tuaregs had lost their herds in the drought and were left with no other means of supporting themselves. Eventually, the term "ishoumar" became synonymous with "rebels".

In 1990, the first Tuareg rebellion began in Mali and Niger when Tuareg commandos launched an attack against local military and government offices. The governments fought back, declaring Tuaregs enemies of the state and forcing many Tuareg's into exile.

Bombino fled with his father and grandmother to stay near relatives in Algeria. One day some relatives arrived from the front lines of the rebellion, carrying with them two guitars that they left behind for a few months. Bombino began to teach himself to play the guitars, plucking out notes in imitation of the ishoumar songs he had heard.

In 1992 and 1993, the military regime in Niger was replaced with a democratically elected government, and numerous political parties were formed, largely along ethnic lines. A Tuareg party was formed, and music once again played an important role in educating the community, this time about the importance of a democratic system in Niger. While the armed conflict had not formally ended, Bombino and his family decided to move back to Agadez.

During a trip to Niamey, Niger for medical treatment, Bombino met with his uncle Rissa Ixa, a famous Tuareg painter, who gave him a guitar. Upon returning to Agadez, Bombino joined the Tuareg political party where he met the best guitarist of the party, a man named Haja Bebe. He started getting lessons, improving to the point where Haja Bebe invited him to join his band. It was during this time that Bombino acquired his nickname. As the youngest and smallest member of the band, the other members called him Bombino, a variation on the Italian word for "little child".

On April 24th, 1995, the Niger government signed a peace treaty with the rebels and Tuaregs were able to move back to Niger. Around the same time, Bombino got a role as an extra in the French film Imuhar: A Legend, which was filmed in the nearby desert. After finishing his work on the film, Bombino settled into life as working musician, performing at political rallies, weddings, and other ceremonies.

He fought often with his father, who did not want his son to become a musician. To escape this problem, Bombino decided to travel to Algeria and Libya in 1996. In Libya, he made friends with some local musicians, and they would spend time watching videos of Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and others in an effort to master their licks. Bombino was quickly becoming an accomplished guitarist and was in high demand as a backing musician. While working as a herder in the desert near Tripoli, Libya, Bombino spent many hours alone watching the animals and practicing his guitar.

Eventually, Bombino decided to return 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, which become a local hit on Agadez radio. The success of the album validated Bombino's choice to make a career out of music, and he began playing regularly for tourists and locals alike.

In 2006, Bombino traveled to California with the band Tidawt for a tour organized by a non-profit organization. During the trip, he had the chance to record a desert blues version of the Rolling Stones classic "Hey Negrita" alongside Stones' members Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. The track appears on the 2008 album spearheaded by Rolling Stones saxophonist Tim Riese entitled Stone's World: The Rolling Stones Project Volume 2. Later that year, Bombino served as Angelina Jolie's guide to the Niger desert region during a weeklong visit. During their time together, he played her the music of the Tuareg and told her stories of nomadic life in the Sahara.

In 2007, the second Tuareg rebellion began, and the government countermeasures were forceful and indiscriminant. Many civilians were killed and farms and livestock were destroyed in an effort to quash the rebellion. Instead, the government's hard-handed tactics only served to galvanize the Tuareg community, and Bombino and his friends joined the rebellion. Government forces killed two of Bombino's musicians, so he fled in exile to Burkina Faso along with many of his fellow Tuaregs.

In 2009, he 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 Bombino was living in exile. While there, Wyman decided to feature Bombino in a documentary he was filming about the Tuareg. Later that year, he brought Bombino to Cambridge, Massachusetts to begin recording the album Agadez in his home studio.

Finally, the Tuaregs put down their arms and were allowed to return to Niger. In January 2010, Wyman came to Agadez to finish the album and the film. The sultan of Agadez allowed them to organize a concert for peace at the base of the Grand Mosque, the first time such a performance had been permitted. Over a thousand people came to celebrate the end of the conflict and danced to the irresistible grooves of Bombino and his band.

Although just thirty years old, Bombino's life and travels have exposed him to the problems facing his people. He has taken on the mission of helping the Tuareg community achieve equal rights, peace, maintain their rich cultural heritage and promote education. He is an advocate for teaching children the Tuareg language of Tamasheq, the local Haoussa language as well as French and Arabic, all of which he speaks fluently. "We fought for our rights," remarks Bombino, "But we have seen that guns are not the solution. We need to change our system. Our children must go to school and learn about their Tuareg identity."

Four thousand years of living in a hostile environment taught the Tuareg that the will to survive with dignity intact is stronger than any external threat. Bombino puts that sentiment to music, writes its anthem, and gives it a life of its own. He is known as being emblematic of the next generation of Tuareg, a new voice of the Sahara and Sahel, fusing traditional Berber rhythms with the energy of rock and roll and songs about peace. After thirty years of drought, rebellion, and tyranny, Bombino extols his audience to remember who they are, but also realize who they can be.

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
  1. Ahoulaguine Akaline (I Greet My Country) 4:03$0.99  Buy MP3 
  2. Tar Hani (My Love) 6:30$0.99  Buy MP3 
  3. Adounia (Life) 5:05$0.99  Buy MP3 
  4. Kammou Taliat (You, My Beloved) 4:30$0.99  Buy MP3 
  5. Tigrawahi Tikma (Bring Us Together) 5:17$0.99  Buy MP3 
  6. Tenere (The Desert, My Home) 3:32$0.99  Buy MP3 
  7. Iyat Idounia Ayasahen (Another Life) 9:08$0.99  Buy MP3 
  8. Azamane (My Brothers United) 4:32$0.99  Buy MP3 
  9. Assalam Felawan (Peace To You) 6:16$0.99  Buy MP3 
10. Tebsakh Dalet (A Green Acacia) 5:09$0.99  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 19, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Cumbancha
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,757 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By B. Heying on April 19, 2011
Format: Audio CD
I've been patiently waiting quite a while for this release, and I can gladly say its well worth it. Bombino has firmly planted himself at the forefront of what may currently be, a golden age of Saharan guitar music. The foundational sound palate set by Tinariwen is further expanded and defined, not only by Bombino and his fellow musicians' performance, but also in the recording quality itself. I really enjoy the music coming out of new-millennium Tuareg culture and if you do as well, this recording is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James on June 7, 2011
Format: Audio CD
Attention all lovers of African music and particularly the "desert blues"
If you enjoy the fusion of old and new styles that comes out of many African artists, you will be thoroughly intrigued by this album. Omar's guitar playing skills rival Doueh and Alhabib--I'd even dare say he has a leg up on them--and the song structure and complexity is something to be marveled at. When I first received this album, I listened to it three times, back-to-back. I can't recommend this highly enough.

Disclaimer: I am someone who listens to a variety of music from the very loose genre of "desert blues" so I am writing this album recommendation to those who are already familiar with it. If you are unfamiliar with this genre, I'd recommend hitting up youtube and checking out Group Doueh, Tinariwen, and Bombino to get a feel of this music before you purchase.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Holly Hunter on June 8, 2011
Format: Audio CD
We listened to this cd every day of our 2.5 month trek through Africa. You will not find more magical world music that captures the heart and should of the Taureg people and Africa.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mortone on December 2, 2012
Format: Audio CD
If you find electrified Taureg electrifying, and listen to Tinariwen this is for you. Bombino is more layered than Tinariwen, and more polished, but not over produced. The desert beat is still there, but everything around in more refine. If you are thinking about buying electrified Taureg get this CD because this is not quite root music, but polished Taureg music for the new millennium, and the world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Troup on October 15, 2012
Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
Really sweet recording that has so many influences and, for sure, will appeal to a very broad group of folks out there beyond World Music lovers. Traces of the Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia reeled me in and his unique background only made the journey more interesting. A MUST For anyone interested in going on a musical journey.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bryan J. Chasko on August 9, 2011
Format: Audio CD
If love at first sight takes your breath away, then true love surely fills your lungs and sustains you. `Agadez', the new album by the incredibly talented guitarist Bombino, is very much a story of true love. And, indeed, the opening moments of the first track, titled "I Greet My Country", hit you with an instant reflexive need to breathe in deeply.

Mali and Niger have produced a bounty of the world's greatest guitar players of late, so it is no surprise to find that Bombino hails from the arid lands of western Niger. It is to this land, and for his people, that he lovingly sings and strums.

Throughout the experience, the progressive scales feel like a perfectly rythmic stair climbing. Even in portions where the chords repeat, the throbbing drums give the music a living heartbeat that charms your own heart into falling in line. A major part of the album's charm is in the restraint shown in keeping rhythm and harmony at the forefront . . . A noticeable achievement given that guitar chops like these nearly always lend towards highly experimental experiences. In rare moments where the music breaks loose, the results are magical. During the ending of "You, My Beloved" an ethereal yelling ushers in a particularly wonderful unrestrained portion of the album, one of many little treasure chests of sound you'll find throughout the album.

The soundscape you travel during `Agadez' is vast, with each track marking a unique path on the larger journey, but the album is constructed in a strikingly professional manner that leaves you feeling uplifted and optimistic from start to finish . . . a striking tone since the background of objects of affection have been in a perpetual state of conflict and persecution.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Newman on August 28, 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have owned this CD for more than six months and I still can't get enough of it. His unique sound is totally hypnotic. The best night time driving album since the Dead's Dark Star. Hopefully, we won;t have to wait long for his next CD.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Richard Lyman on May 10, 2012
Format: Audio CD
We bought this CD after having the pleasure of hearing Bombino last week at the 2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. We were walking by the Blues Tent and became transfixed by this sound that reminded me of Ali Farke Toure. But Toure had died several years ago, so I thought maybe it was his son. We went in and there was this young guy with a Stratocaster and long flowing robes pumping out this hypnotic sound. He worked out for at least ten minutes on "Another Life," a simple two note riff with complex fills and relentlessly driven by his drummer. I felt like I could run across the Sahara desert with that song set to repeat on my Ipod. He has a joyous stage presence and dances and spins as if he can feel God's pleasure in every note.

Another reviewer here commented that his singing in his native language was distracting. Well, Mick Jagger sings in English and I can only understand about half of what he says. I find Bombino's soft voice an important element to the melody of his songs, but his guitar playing is really his strength. If you were to describe him like a fine wine, it would be a base of Ali Farke Toure with hints of Mark Knofler, and an occasional Carlos Santana channeling the rhythms of Mississippi Fred McDowell. Bombino grew up as a refugee in central Africa, but was prohibited by the government from performing in public. Great music is often created from political repression (e.g. Delta Blues) and Bombino now has the opportunity to express himself freely. I envision him collaborating with other musicians such as Ry Cooder which will allow him to become more mainstream with western audiences. I give this bottle of fine wine a 92 and look forward to more.
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