15 Apr 2016

Bombino: "Azel"

Another wide-brushed stroke of rocking desert tunes from the Tuareg darling
As a bluesy sandstorm of Tuareg folk rock sweaps across the land in the form of bands like Terakaft, Tinariwen and Tamikrest, few bands stand out like Bombino. The style has become synonymous with the virtually untapped and largely ignored potential of the African music scene, with Grammy-award winning group Tinariwen being the prime example. Bombino, however, didn't exactly go by unnoticed when his first internationally released album Agadez came out in 2011. Attracting the attention of, among many others, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys fame, it culminated in the 2013 album Nomad which Auerbach himself produced. Through Nonesuch Records the album received incredible reviews from international critics and fans alike. Now Bombino, also known by his common name Goumar Almoctar - or Omara Moctar, returns with Azel.

To buffs of the genre Bombino could best be described as a more upbeat and cheery version of Tinariwen. But in reality, Moctar's desert rock is deserving of a more thorough inspection than such a cursory glance. Azel provides a myriad of aspects, each one representative of its own niche. Where Inar tends to folky nighttime campfires under open sky, the dancable Tamiditine Tarhanam calls for a much more upbeat grasp on rock guitaring. Iyat Ninhay, in turn, is almost psychedelic in its laid back attitude. Much like fine sand, Bombino's tender arrangements get in everywhere, and there's no stopping it.

"Though Azel may sound exotic to Western ears, Moctar is a blues guitarist at heart."

As always Omara Moctar's guitar play is genious in its own right, with each little triplet and melody showing the nuance of his compositions. Though Azel may sound exotic to Western ears, Moctar is a blues guitarist at heart. This is proven by a composition such as Naqqim Dagh Timshar, which with its stomping rhythm and gentle but intricate pentatonics recalls those sombre, understated emotional sways. Traditional Tuareg folk tunes with a dash of modern rock also slither their way into the tracks on Azel, but by now they are much more understated and downplayed than on the previous album Nomad where they ruled from up high.

Bombino is, and remains, a representative and an icon for modern African music in the West. Where similar bands often meander and drag their feet through the habitual motions, Moctar persists as an ambitious and virtuosic musician worthy of the praise he receives. Azel makes a promise of yet untapped potential, but is in itself a brilliant offering of hypnotic rock tunes.


Released in 2016 by Partisan Records


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