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Austin Psych Fest Preview: Bombino (!)

February 19, 2012

There’s nothing the world craves so much as the authentic man. The genuine article. The real deal.

Enter Bombino. His life story is so amazing there should be an exclamation point at the end of his name: Bombino!  People will be inevitably screaming your name in rapturous shivers of ecstasy.

Bombino’s website says that he is known as the one of the greatest guitarists in the Sahara and Sahel region of Africa. I dare say his biographer is being modest. I personally have heard no one greater from that storied land, so in my book Bombino is the best.

Hailing form the Agadez region of Niger, Bombino came from a family of nomadic herders. Existing just beyond the grasp of the civilized world, his family’s life was interrupted by the first Tuareg rebellion when he was 12, so they fled their native land for Algeria. It was there that Bombino first saw a  stringed instrument and he was immediately smitten. In 1993 he and his family returned back to Niger and even though guitars were forbidden, his uncle got him one. Like outlaws, he and other Tuareg musicians played in the shadows, avoiding the Taliban-esque anti-music zealots.

Link Wray's recording studio: a palace compared to a river wash in Niger

Only once peace returned to the region was his band were able to play publicly. A few years later, his first solo album was recorded in a dry river bed in the Niger bush – which makes Link Wray’s series of recordings produced in his legendary “three track shack” in the middle of rural Maryland sound like a product of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. While this observation may initially sound like a bit of a stretch, but perhaps Link Wray and Bombino aren’t so far apart after all. From the unexplored deserts of Africa to the rural outreaches of America, the neo-psychedelic soul lives on … Behold Link Wray’s “Alabama Electric Circus” here :

Is it wrong to say that Bombino is the bomb? Yes it is. Very much so, in fact. (But that does make it an less true.)

You can hear Bombino’s new album here.

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