"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"
- Omara "Bombino" Moctar, 7/25/2013, Interview w/ Artistxite.
One day, they will make a movie about the life of Omara Moctar. And while he has already been featured in a few documentaries, that is just a footnote in the 33 year old's improbable life story.
Moctar was born in 1980, in a small Tuareg encampment in the north of the West African nation of Niger. The Tuareg are a culturally distinct, historically nomadic people, split mostly between Niger, Algeria, and Mali. When Moctar was young, backlash from a Tuareg rebellion forced him and his family to flee to a refugee camp across the border in Algeria. It was there that he began to learn guitar.
During his years in exile, Moctar began to play with other Tuareg musicians. Despite his young age, he quickly distinguished himself. (His nickname, Bombino, given to him by the older musicians, comes from the Italian word for "little child.") Eventually, after an armistice was signed, Moctar returned to Niger and quickly became a favored musician in the northern town of Agadez, where his band, Group Bombino, could be frequently heard on local radio.
In 2006, Bombino toured the United States with Tuareg band Tidawt. Then, in 2007, Sublime Frequencies released an album by Group Bombino as part of their "Guitars from Agadez" series. Around that time, with civil strife flaring up again in Niger, Moctar fled, this time to neighboring Burkina Faso. It was there that filmmaker Ron Wyman tracked the guitarist down, featured him in a documentary he was working on, and flew Bombino out to Massachusetts to record what eventually became the Agadez album, released in 2011. International acclaim followed quickly.
Today, Bombino is on tour in support of Nomad, produced in Nashville by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. Here is the song "Azamane Tiliade" from that album:
Historically, Tuareg music, as befitting their geopolitical plight, is protest music. (Check out Tinariwen, a Tuareg band from Mali, made up of former rebel fighters.) So while we're going to guess most of our audience doesn't speak Tamashek, there is an undeniable fervency that courses Bombino's music. Bombino's particular style of Tuareg music is called Ishumar, but it has been blended with the blues and rock musicians he idolized growing up. (He is particularly fond of Jimi Hendrix.) Let's just call it psychedelic desert rock. Or better yet, transcendent.
Bombino will play at the Thunderbird, in Lawrenceville, the night before Thanksgiving, November 27. Tickets cost $12 in advance, $15 day of show. If you're feeling lucky, we have a pair of tickets to giveaway for the show. Simply email your name to "email@example.com," and put "Bombino" in the subject line.
Pittsburgh is quite fortunate to have an internationally-renowned guitarist play such an intimate venue. About a week after visiting Pittsburgh, Bombino plays Carnegie Hall.
-- B. Conway