Music

Bombino: Sounds of the Sahara

‘I first picked up the guitar when my family was in refuge in Tamanrasset, Algeria when I was about twelve years old. It was the beginning of the rest of my life.”

By Jack Gary - jack@citizenbrooklyn.com Photos ©Teo J. Babini

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CBK headed to the Highline ballroom to see one of the brightest, up and coming stars in the world music scene: Tuareg guitarist and songwriter, Omara “Bombino” Moctar.This Nigerian musical feast was filled with wonderful rhythms and outstanding guitar playing, both acoustic and electric. Bombino’s stage presence was humble, almost shy in between songs, but while playing his eyes showed a great deal of intensity and his body was full of dance. You could really tell that he was put on this earth to play music.

We had a chance to catch up with him and ask him a few question on his life, music, and, of course, Brooklyn.

CBK: When did you pick up the guitar for the first time?

OBM: I first picked up the guitar when my family was in refuge in Tamanrasset, Algeria when I was about twelve years old. It was the beginning of the rest of my life.

Bombino photo © Teo J. Babini

CBK: What is your relationship with traditional Tuareg music?

OBM: Well, I am Tuareg, and I think we all have a very deep connection with our traditional music. It is a part of natural life, like eating, talking, breathing. I have an infinite respect for the great Tuareg artists over the ages that have made this beautiful tradition, and I am hoping to take the tradition one step further in my lifetime.

CBK: Who are some of your biggest influences?

OBM: My biggest influences are Ali Farka Toure, Mark Knofler, Carlos Santana, and the great Jimi Hendrix

CBK: It seems a lot of your songs have a political message, could you elaborate?

OBM: I don’t think my songs are political, they are talking about peace, about brotherhood, about a connection to one another and to the land. I do not see those as political things, just as human things.

Bombino photo © Teo J. Babini

CBK: Who is your favorite current musician?

OBM: Oh, that’s a hard question. I must give my choice to Ibrahim of Tinariwen. He is a great hero for me.

CBK: What is your favorite place to play?

OBM: My favorite place to play is at home in Agadez. It is there that our souls are home and completely at peace. But I have really loved playing in many countries while touring this past year. I really loved playing in Israel, and Canada, and Japan was really interesting. It has been a very exciting year for me.

CBK: Have you been to Brooklyn and what do think about it? If not, what do you think about New York in general?

OBM: Yes, I stay in Brooklyn when I come to New York. Brooklyn is really a cool place. New York is like Tokyo – just a crazy place with people running around everywhere. I like it though, I like the energy of it. You feel that really there is so many cool things happening here all the time. There is a great creative force.

Bombino photo © Teo J. Babini

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