Bombino and his electric guitar as a symbol of rebellion

“I don’t see the guitar as a gun, but as a hammer to build a home for the Tuareg people” – Omara “Bombino” Moctar

Have you heard of the “Tuareg Jimi Hendrix” from Agadez, Niger?

On November 8 (Wednesday), you’ll have the chance to listen to him and his band for the first time in Sofia, thanks to Alarma Punk Jazz & Wrong Fest.

Omara “Bombino” Moctar (in Tamashek, the Tuareg language – ⴱⵓⵎⴱⵉⵏⵓ) was born in 1980 in Tidene, 80 km from Agadez, the center of the Tuareg civilization in Niger. With the outbreak of the Tuareg uprising (in different parts of Mali and Niger to win autonomy) in 1990, his family fled to Algeria. He discovered the electric guitar in his teenage years in Algeria and Libya, learning (along with other Tuareg boys, his friends) from Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler videos. In 1997 he returned to Agadez. Only a decade later, his music was released for the first time under the name Group Bombino – on the live album “Guitars From Agadez, Vol. 2” on the Seattle label Subleme Frequencies. But just then, in 2007, new Tuareg riots broke out in Niger, to which the state responded with a series of brutal repressions. The electric guitar was banned for the Tuareg community as the central government saw it as a symbol of rebellion. Two of Bombino’s band members at the time were executed, and he managed to save himself in Burkina Faso.

photo: Richard Dumas

There he joined the band Tidawt, also exiles from Niger, with whom he was invited for the first time to the United States as part of a festival dedicated to Tuareg culture. American saxophonist Tim Rice in turn invited him for a special project dedicated to the music of the Rolling Stones, and Bombino ended up playing alongside Keith Richards and Charlie Watts on one of the songs.

In a recent interview, when asked about the responsibility of being so well known, to create something better for his people, Bombino said, “We have this responsibility to bring to the world a change that we can bring. Because us on the outside can talk about the reality of the things that are going on in the country. It’s up to artists to bring the message of peace, of development, of wanting to change as far as possible.”

photo: Lara Cocciolo

In Burkina Faso, Bombino met film producer Ron Wyman, who helped him record his music. In 2010, after the conflict settled down and the warring sides reconciled, he returned to Niger, where he performed a concert in the desert to over a thousand people, documented in the film „Agadez, the Music and the Rebellion“.

Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys produced his album Nomad (2013), released on Nonesuch Records. Meanwhile, military tensions in northern Mali escalate and the paths of Bombino and Tinariwen (the world’s most famous Tuareg band, the doyens of the so-called “desert blues”) cross for a series of concerts in Paris, with which they draw the world’s attention to the problems of the Tuareg in North Africa.

photo: Anne Combaz

This was followed by an American tour, collaborations with Robert Plant, Gogol Bordello and Amadou & Mariam, appearances on KEXP’s Live Session and Tiny Desk. Bombino’s sixth studio album, Deran (2018), recorded in a studio owned by the King of Morocco, was nominated for a Grammy in the Best World Music Album section.

Bombino comes to Sofia with Corey Wilhelm (drums and calabash, USA) and Yuba Dia (bass, Mauritania) and music from his latest album Sahel (2023). The concert will be both a celebration of Tuareg rock&roll and culture, and a way for the organizers to show their support for all the innocent people currently experiencing another coup and escalation of violence in Niger.

photo: Mathias Magritte

The doors of *Mixtape 5* open to the public at 20:00 and the concert will start at 21:00. Before and after, the club will play a selection of thematic music – tribal rock and roll and psychedelic blues from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Far North – a selection of Alarma Punk Jazz and Wrong Fest.

Tickets can be found at EpayGo and at EasyPay counters, and you can follow the event in Facebook.

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