Feb 12, 2013
The River Niger Project
Through the heart of West Africa flows a river that runs from the Fouta Jallon Mountains in the West to the volatile Niger delta in the East. It passes through many countries and territories including Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. Through millennia the river has seen kingdoms, nations and civilizations, rise and fall, but it continues relentlessly on its annual cycle as a heartbeat, nurturing both the land and the peoples of this part of the World. With the challenge of the encroaching desert, the river marks the continuum from past to present always adapting to new circumstances yet remaining true to its own source. Tradition is like the river always needing to change to new circumstance yet remaining true to its source. In the Griot Tradtion, music is its water, flowing in the moment yet reflecting the eternal. How does a legacy remain true to itself and yet be free to move with the times? Are there still lessons to be learnt and drawn from the traditions of old? Music and culture, like the river, are also the heartbeat of the people for they carry the hopes and aspirations against and through the challenges and harsh realities of daily life. It is the people’s bloodline with the griots and artists as the voice of resistance or the channel of reassurance, the guardians and custodians of the collective heritage.
The River Niger project is centered around the legendary music of Mali, one of the richest musical heritages in the World. It brings together, for the first time, some of the most celebrated Malian artists into an integrated score with a String Quintet, the African Classical Music Ensemble and the seminal sound of West African chorus vocals. Led by Composer/Producer, Tunde Jegede, The River Niger project will feature the Malian vocalists, Kasse Mady Diabate and Oumou Sangare together with premier Kora player, Toumani Diabate. It will also feature the African Classical Music Ensemble, the Brodsky String Quartet and enigmatic classical bassist, Chi-chi Nwanoku. With some of the world’s finest classical ensembles, The River Niger project draws from the classical traditions of Africa and Europe to tell the story of the peoples around the great River Niger through the journey of the river itself.
"Fleuve Niger" will follow the development of Tunde's music from the recording studios in Bamako and London, to a world tour of the entire ensemble. The synthesis of classical and African themes, a genre' of music rarely explored, is mastered here by Tunde. The music will become the soundtrack to a journey through the magnificent region and cultures of the Niger River; Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. Griots tell their,stories, explain ancient traditions and history, kept alive for generations through the music. The desert gives way to the River, and communities along the banks thrive, irrigating crops, fishing, transporting goods and people; in many regions this is the only water for a thousand miles. The people know that "amaniman"; water is life. Many have been scorched by drought and famine losing animals, crops and family. The cultures are strong and robust but life is hard; they understand more than anybody the preciousness of water and they celebrate it. There are many languages along the river, all connected by music and its universal dialect. This is the metaphor of "Fleuve Niger"; that we are all related by an all embracing language and by the most essential element on earth, water. The journey ends where it began, with the music ensemble onstage. African audiences dissolve into an audience at Carnegie Hall. As the musicians bow to applause, we fly over the River, with the sun shimmering in the water at sunset.
Apr 27, 2011
The Tuareg people have lived in the Sahara desert of Western Africa for thousands of years. The harsh desert environment gets woven into those who can adapt to it. So the Tuareg have long been protective of their independent, nomadic-herder culture and society. But not unlike the European Roma, Tuaregs have a tense — occasionally violent — relationship with central governments. As with the Roma, the Tuareg's modern music has become a prime vehicle for both defiance and unification.
In the early 1990s, during an armed struggle with the Niger government over water, land and independence, the child Omara Moctar, now known as Bombino, fled with his family from their home in the city of Agadez. While exiled in Algeria, the 12-year-old Bombino first heard electric guitar and was captivated. By 2010, guitar players were no longer considered symbols of insurrection and Bombino could return to Agadez and play openly. Based on his new album, he is clearly a young performer with the charisma and probing imagination to become the first Tuareg star. And he addresses the oldest theme of all in "Tar Hani," which means "My Love."
It may sound peculiar to suggest that could be the hit single from the album Agadez, but currents of blues and rock run through Bombino's guitar work, picked up from Jimi Hendrix records combined with influences from the group Tinariwen, the founders of electric Tuareg music, and guitarists from Mali like Ali Farke Toure. Bombino is another example of a player who seems to plug in himself when he plugs in his guitar. Still, he can cast a charming trance on acoustic, particularly resonator guitar, which he often reserves for folk tunes such as one dedicated to "The Desert, My Home."
Listen to the full radio story on NPR's 'Fresh Air'
Apr 26, 2011
Apr 25, 2011
Apr 24, 2011
The Tuareg guitar music scene that’s boiling up across the Sahara has yielded its share of great music, but not a lot of stars. Omara “Bombino” Moctar seems set to change that. He’s got the requisites down; brushes with celebrity (he sang along with members of The Rolling Stones and did a stint as Angelina Jolie’s desert guide), a media push (film maker Ron Wyman has made the forthcoming movie Agadez, the Music & the Rebellion, about him), and a fairly photogenic face. And if you’ve kept this page marked, you may already know that he has some skills to go with the looks and the connections; another Dusted scribe called him a virtuoso and his entry in Sublime Frequencies’ Guitars From Agadez series the label’s most accessible release.
Agadez, which is named for the hometown in Niger that Bombino has twice had to leave as a consequence of war, is an unusual star vehicle. Although it drops the group and trades in the microphone-frying guerilla recording quality of its predecessor for the balanced sound of a professional job done in Cambridge, Mass., the music doesn’t sound compromised. There are no laminated-in-Paris keyboards or famous guest guitarists, no attempts to oversell Saharan desert music’s links to the blues — just guitars, voices, hand drums and handclaps. The loping, unhurried rhythms are similar to those heard on Tinariwen and Ali Farka Toure records.
Read the full story in Dusted
Apr 23, 2011
“Agadez is a must have album from young Tuareg guitar legend, Bombino.” – Gondwana Sound
“Omara Moctar knows how to shred… [he] positively slays.” -Pitchfork
“The singer and guitarist Bombino emerges from the dunes of the Sahara with his desert folk dancing in the flames. Absolutely magical.” — Les Inrockuptibles (France)
“Bombino’s tone distinguishes him as an emerging artist with something to say. Bright and cutting on the upswing, percussive on the downbeat, snatches of Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and even Jerry Garcia can be heard in the sound Bombino creates.” – No Depression
If you never buy another record in your life, buy Agadez and celebrate the genius of Bombino. - Vivoscene
Apr 20, 2011
The mesmerizing, blistering guitar and vocals by Omara ‘Bombino’ Moctar, on his new release Agadez arise straight out of the Sahara Desert, sounding for all the world like the talents of Ry Cooder, Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Page and Richard Thompson playing for all they’re worth. This is musical genius combined with the politics of despair, and in it you hear real struggle, not the kind endured by art students who decide to become rock stars but the kind that matters.
No wonder Bombino was invited by the musical elite to come to America, to come to England, to come where enervated millionaires need inspiration for their tired careers and where they search again for the lost knowledge that made them famous: how to make music of significance.
This man is the real thing, and there are few of his like left in the world.
You could do yourself no greater favour than to listen to the music of Bombino, who has been the subject of the documentary film Agadez, the Music and the Rebellion.
He was born January 1, 1980 in Tidene, Niger, a Tuareg encampment outside of Agadez. Following the outbreak of the Tuareg Rebellion in 1990, Bombino, along with his father and grandmother, were forced to flee to neighboring Algeria for safety. By 1997, Bombino had returned to Agadez and began life as a professional musician.
In 2007 tensions grew again in Niger and ultimately erupted into another Tuareg Rebellion. The government, hoping to thwart the rebellion in all its forms, banned guitars for the Tuareg, as the instrument was seen as a symbol of rebellion. Additionally, two of Bombino’s fellow musicians were executed, thus forcing him into exile in Burkina Faso, where filmmaker Ron Wyman, having heard cassette recordings of his music, decided to track him down. Wyman encouraged Bombino to properly record his music. Bombino agreed, and the two of them produced an album together in Agadez.
In January 2010 Bombino was able to return to his home in Agadez. So as to celebrate the end of the conflict, a large concert was organized at the base of the Grand Mosque in Agadez, having received the blessing of the Sultan. Bombino and his band played to over a thousand people at the concert, all dancing and celebrating the end of their struggle.
The result of Ron Wyman’s work is available now throughout the world, and the album is sensational beyond description, although many have tried to convey its magic.
Read the full story in VivoScene
Apr 18, 2011
In Agadez, The Music And The Rebellion Ron Wyman has done an excellent job of not only depicting their life without romanticizing or sentimentalizing it, but showing what they are doing to preserve it in the face of increasingly difficult odds. Follow his camera into one of the harshest environments on earth and meet the people who not only live there, but cherish the freedom it brings them. You will also meet the remarkable young musician, Omara "Bombino" Moctar, whose story of exile and return is typical for his generation, but whose talent is unique. Like his people he has persevered in the face of persecution (two of the musicians he used to play with were killed by the Niger army when they targeted the musicians among the Kel Tamsheq in the 2007 uprising and he was in exile in Burkina Faso until 2010) and now uses what he does best to fight for them.
Read the full review in Leap in the Dark