Friday ACL Fest Interview: Bombino

West African guitarist comes prepared for a musician's nomadic existence


Photo by Jana Birchum

"There's always music in Niger to mark any occasion, like a birth, a marriage, a funeral, or just a party," remembers Bombino, via email, of his early years in West Africa. "I was always around music as a child, but mostly traditional Tuareg music."

The 36-year-old Saharan guitar wizard fuses that with blues, rock, and reggae to thrilling results on Azel, his fourth LP.

"I discovered Western rock music when I was about 9 or 10," he writes. "I was living in Algeria with my parents and some cousins as a refugee of the Tuareg rebellion in Niger at the time. My cousins showed me videos of great musicians like Jimi Hendrix and I became obsessed from that moment. This was a man that was free in a deeper sense than I had known before.

"It filled my heart with a joy and love I cannot describe. I wanted to pursue this feeling for myself and made it my mission to do so at that moment. This is still the feeling that inspires me when I step onstage today."

Over swirling nomadic blues, Bombino sings mostly in his native tongue of Tamasheq, but he isn't concerned the message will be lost in translation.

"Maybe they do not understand the words, but they can understand naturally the deeper meaning of the song. If I am singing about love or loss or longing or about fraternity, I think this comes across in the energy that is shared between us and the audience."

The life of an acclaimed touring musician isn't exactly the one of his ancestral homeland, yet parallels exist.

"Your feeling of home becomes not a place but the people with whom you are surrounded. Now it is my band that are like my family. They give me this sense of home no matter where we are in the world."


Bombino

3:30pm, Tito's Handmade Vodka stage

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Bombino
SXSW Record Reviews
Bombino
Azel (Record Review)

Thomas Fawcett, March 18, 2016

More by Thomas Fawcett
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
Dallas Acid blows some bubbles, KUTX remembers the Armadillo, and more music for the moment

Aug. 14, 2020

Colombian Folkloric Post-Punks Nemegata Drop Four-Star Debut
Colombian Folkloric Post-Punks Nemegata Drop Four-Star Debut
Local trio finds the fire of the jaguar

July 3, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Bombino, ACL Fest 2016

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle