Interview: Bombino, internationally acclaimed guitarist and singer-songwriter

With a deep-rooted love for his Tuareg roots, internationally acclaimed guitarist and singer-songwriter, Omara “Bombino” Moctar, brings a lively and unique set to each of his shows.

During his previous tours, Bombino transformed the blues/rock Tuareg sound by incorporating reggae and later coining the term, “Tuareggae.” With his newest body of work, “Azel,” Bombino takes the Tuareggae sound introduced on his tours and layers in unique harmonies to create what Partisan Records describes as the “first-ever use of Western vocal harmonies in recorded Tuareg music.” Bombino will perform at the Cedar on October 8th with Teenage Moods, as a part of his wide-spanning world tour.

We spoke to Bombino in advance of his show.

Bethel Gessesse, Fall Marketing and Content Intern

Q: Tuareg musicians are known to use their music to evoke change in their surrounding world, and you’ve carried on that tradition through your music. What message do you hope that audiences will take away from your work?

A: I hope that people receive from my music a message of peace and of the importance of understanding who you are and where you come from. In today’s world it is very important not to lose your own identity and with this you can bring more interesting things to others in the world.  This is the spirit of my music.

Q: The process of recording “Azel” differed tremendously from your previous albums. What is it about being isolated and in nature, as opposed to being in a recording studio, that brought about this sound we’ve come to recognize as “Tuareggae?”

A: Actually, we recorded Azel in a recording studio in Woodstock.  All the same it was very beautiful being surrounded by nature there and it helped to inspire our best work.  Tuareggae is a style I have been working out with my band over the last few years, but Azel is the first time it was put on an album.  It was in Woodstock that we gave it this name, Tuareggae, but the style itself is a bit older than that if you look at my live shows from one or two years ago.

Q: “Tuareggae” was a sound that was informally introduced on your previous tours before the name was coined. Are there new sounds we should look out for in your music during this tour or in future albums?

A: Well, I cannot say for sure what will come next in my music.  My style of approaching music is to simply throw myself in, play, and see what happens, see where I find inspiration and what sounds good to me.  I do not have a plan of ‘I will do this, then I will do that…’ I like to just see how things unfold on stage and go from there.

Q: What was your most memorable performance?

A: For me, the most memorable concert was the one I performed in front of the Grand Mosque in Agadez when the Tuareg were celebrating our return after the rebellion.  This concert was captured by Ron Wyman in his documentary about the Tuareg of Niger [Agadez: The Music and The Rebellion].  This was of course a very special concert because it was symbolic of a return to peace – in fact it was a demonstration, a proof that peace had returned to Agadez.  That was the best feeling I have felt as a performer.

Q: What is inspiring you right now?

A: Right now I am listening to a lot of traditional music again from my region.  It has been some time since I listened a lot to this music — more precisely it is called Takamba.  It is at the root of my musical style as well.  It brings me a lot of joy to sit back and listen to this music.  It makes me feel relaxed and at peace.

Get tickets for Bombino and Teenage Moods on October 8th at the Cedar’s website.