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Interview with Tuareg Guitarist Omara "Bombino" Moctar

by Monika Heller (Aug 16, 2023)

Interview with the Tuareg guitarist Bombino, who played at the Africa Days in Vienna and is releasing his new album in September.
Bombino explains how he gained the nickname "Bombino", which is derived from the Italian word "bambino". He was already playing at the age of 10 and was called “the little one” by the others. Then the 'a' was replaced by the 'o'.
During the interview he wears elegant, beautiful, blue clothing - traditional clothing, which is very important.

The five (important) albums are listed and named - Agadez, Nomad, Deran, Azel, Agamgam - and the album SAHEL, which will be released in September.
The name of the album refers to the Sahel, in the heart of Africa, which includes half of Algeria, half of Mali, half of Niger and also one a little bit of Mauritania.
Different tribes live here: Take the Tuareg, for example, in the south of Algeria and in the north of Mali. They live under the most difficult conditions.
Those who have nothing always suffer... B. complains about the lack of training opportunities for young people. With the appropriate training, young people could take up careers such as doctors or police officers and be useful in their region.
No matter what nationality you are, it is important that you do something for the region where you were born, where you grew up, where your parents were born.

Bombino was born January 1, 1980 in a Tuareg encampment about 80 kilometers northeast of Agadez. B. says that he was spoiled by his grandmother and that he didn't go to school regularly - that later turned out to be a handicap.
But he has been married to his guitar for 10 years”…
How did he get a guitar? Travelers had asked him to keep 2 guitars for them and then his uncle gave him a guitar. That was lucky because it wasn't that easy to organize a guitar.
As a shepherd, he had a lot of time to practice the guitar while looking after the animals and he made good use of the time - and says in the interview: The desert is a good place to learn to play music.
In principle it is not easy to make a living from music - fortunately that has changed.
B talks about many musical stars who admired and supported him, e.g. the Rolling Stones - with them he recorded a version of the Stones single “Hey Negrita”.
Together with Dan Auerbach (the Black Keys' frontman) - who doesn't speak French - he released the album NOMAD, which became a great international and local success.

Music: Zigzan (Patience), track 10 from album Nomad

The album represents a great success and proves or shows that making music together still works after 10 years and also shows the love for music and doing things together.
The piece AITMA is about love for the region of origin, saving one's own culture and the joy of exchange.

Music: Aitma, track 3 from album Sahel

BOMBINOS MUSIC IS A JOURNEY, even if you don't understand the language - Tamasheq - you will understand the mood and the energy.
B knows: there's a reason why people like my music. Even if someone doesn't understand the lyrics: the music makes you dance...

In 2010, Bombino was able to return to his hometown of Agadez. To celebrate the end of the conflict, a large concert was organized at the foot of the Grand Mosque in Agadez with the Sultan's blessing. Bombino and his band played at the concert in front of over a thousand people, everyone dancing and celebrating the end of their fight.
… a concert celebrating peace, in Agadez …

DERAN – the album that was nominated at the Grammy Awards in the “Best World Music Album” category made Bombino the first Grammy-nominated artist from Niger.
The winner was South Africa, but for Bombino and his musicians the nomination was already a victory.

Talks about the beauty of nature, the beauty of human beings, God gave us beauty, let's enjoy.

Music: Tehigren (The Trees), track 3 from album Deran

Yes, a sequel. B and his group continue to play together, they have been playing together for 10 or more years 11 years...
The focus is also on the current situation in the Sahel region.

B introduces his musicians and instruments
So the group consists of 4 musicians, 4 friends - 4 brothers, with whom B spends a lot of time, maybe even more than with his family.

Sahel – MES AMIS, my friends.
The play is about friendship, there was a hostel or a restaurant where B. and his friends met again and again in the afternoon to make music.

Music: Midiwan (My Friends), track 4 from album Sahel

To dance ? to listen ? to dream ?
The album SAHEL - there is everything, it is for dancing, for listening, for relaxing, even for sleeping (some tracks).
The album represents my whole life, everything I've experienced so far.
In Niger, in Algeria, in Mali, in Libya, a little in Mauritania.
This Sahel – this is my whole life.


bombino and Moniks Heller
Listen to the Interview