Sunday, September 28, 2014

He's the Bomb: Bombino and "Zigzan"

Zigzan by Bombino on Grooveshark

Not long, maybe a year, after I first heard the Tuareg group Tinariwen and was blown away by their song Tenhert, I heard Bombino. He showed up at Albuquerque's Globalquerque World Music Festival and played both evenings of the festival, one on the main stage and the other on a smaller, more intimate stage. He was fantastic - especially on the smaller stage where he kept people dancing for his entire set. The only thing I knew, previous to my exposure to him and to Tinariwen, was that the name Tuareg was used as the name for a car line. After Tinariwen and Bombino, I thought I knew the birthplace of electric blues. It wasn't Chicago, it was the deserts of Africa. Tinariwen would dispute that - they claim that they never heard the blues before they toured the United States - but given how musical styles have traveled from Africa to other places on the globe, and especially African musical contributions to the musical legacy of the United States, who really knows. All I know is that I like what I hear.

Bombino is a singer-songwriter and acclaimed guitarist from Niger. He sings in the Tuareg Timashek language and addresses political concerns of the Tuareg in his songs. Bombino taught himself to play guitar as a child in a refugee encampment in Algeria after his family had to flee Niger due to a Tuareg rebellion in 1990. While spending his teen years in exile in Algeria and Libya, he watched videos of Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler and other guitarists to learn their styles. In 1997 he returned to Niger and began his life as professional musician, but had to flee again in 2007 after another Tuareg rebellion erupted. The government banned guitars to the Tuareg, fearing them as a political weapon but Bombino declared that his guitar was not a gun, but a hammer with which to build a house of the Tuareg people. While Bombino was in exile in Burkina Faso, filmmaker Ron Wyman heard cassettes of his playing and found him, and produced Bombino's chart-topping world album Agadez. Bombino returned to Niger again in 2010, and he is the subject of the film Agadez, the Music and the Rebellion. This song, Zigzan, is from Bombino's 2013 album Nomad.