Omoura Moctar, known in Africa as "Bombino", is a Tuareg from Agadez, Niger at the edge of the Sahara. Known for his extraordinary guitar playing and performances, he has a cult following amongst West Africans. He has exiled to Burkina Faso because of a rebellion between the Tuaregs and the government of Niger. The Tuaregs are known for their camel caravans crossing the Sahara, linking the Mediterranean and West Africa with trade and culture. Today, the Tuaregs are being forced from their homelands and are in danger of losing their traditional ways of life. Bombino represents a new generation of musicians reminding the world of this magnificent culture and all they have contributed to West African (and world) culture.
Free Download: 'Tar Hani' (my love) from 'Agadez' by Bombino
The Tuareg are an ancient Saharan nomadic tribe who, since the 12th century, have linked North Africa and West Africa, guiding their camel caravans across the desert, spreading art and music from Egypt to Mali. The Tuareg guard their independence and personal freedoms fiercely and have taken up arms against the government three times in the past two decades. They are also a very moderate and independent Muslim culture that cherishes the right to worship in their own way, as well as the rights of women. In fact, in Tuareg culture, the men cover their faces, the women do not.
Bombino was born in 1980 into a family of nomadic Tuareg herders living in the region of Agadez, Niger, a remote and storied city at the edge of the Sahara. His childhood was spent learning the survival skills necessary to a nomadic lifestyle. In the Tuareg community education is at the center of all activities and the desert is the university. When Bombino was barely 12 years old, his family took refuge in Tamanrasset, Algeria, to escape the hostilities related to the outbreak of the first Tuareg rebellion. In that same year, he picked up his first guitar.
In 1993 his family returned to Niger, where Tuareg guitar was a new phenomenon but forbidden by the authorities. Despite this ban, Bombino’s uncle encouraged his new interest. Bombino later travelled to Algeria and Libya where he met professional musicians and for the first time heard the music of Ali Farka Toure’, Jimi Hendrix and others. He began learning some blues and rock and started to integrate it with the traditional music he grew up with.
The return of peace to Niger saw the lifting of the music ban and the musicians of the Niger Tuareg music scene were finally able to play together in Agadez. He now understood that his life as “a musician and eternal learner” was his destiny.
Bombino’s music career began by serving as a cook and troubadour, travelling with tour groups visiting the magnificent dunes of the Sahara Desert, near Agadez. In 2004 Bombino released his first CD, “Agamgam”, recorded in a dry river bed in the Niger bush. In 2006 he travelled with his group Tidawt, to perform in California. While there he was invited to record the song “Hey, Negrita” with Keith Richards and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. In 2006, he traveled with Angelina Jolie for a week while she toured the Agadez region. He played the music of the Tuareg and told her the stories of nomadic life in the Sahara.
During the most recent Tuareg rebellion the military executed two of his musicians, driving Bombino into exile for several years. He has now returned home to Agadez. In January, 2010, with the Sultan's blessing, he staged a concert outside the Grande Mosque to celebrate the end of the war and the beginning of a lasting peace. A thousand people showed up, and after three years of rebellions, drought and a devastating flood, Agadez found a reason to celebrate. His soaring guitar solos brought the entire crowd to their feet dancing.
In February of 2010, the military junta ousted the despised president Mamdou Tandja. Since then, the junta kept it’s promise to hold democratic elections, and the opposition candidate Mahamadou Issoufou won the presidency. On April 7, he names Brigi Rafini as prime minister. Brigi Rafini is a Tuareg from the Agadez region.
Many of the scenes in the film were shot just before the latest rebellion in some of the most beautiful and remote regions of the Sahara which are now inaccessible due to kid-nappings and al Qaeda activity. During the last year of filming in the US and Niger, Bombino’s latest CD was recorded, both in Boston and Agadez, produced by Ron Wyman, who also produced the film. The CD, “Agadez” has been released by Cumbancha Records and within a week of release, it became #1 on the iTunes world music charts. Bombino has begun a world tour which kicked of in Paris in April, 2011.
The Tuareg are a people in flux, caught between modernity and tradition; Bombino’s songbook is a lyrical manual for both change and stability in a dangerous and uncertain future. He is the new generation of Tuareg.