Bombino

LIVE REVIEW: Bombino, Alice, 31.08.2018

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Bombino is the Jimi Hendrix of the desert. That’s what the Roskilde Festival programme said in 2013, that’s what he proved that year on the Odeon stage and that’s what he is proving once again in a sold out Alice.
Bombino, or Oumara Moctar, was born sometime around 1980 in Tidene close to Agadez, Niger. He belongs to the Ifoghas, one of the nomadic tribes of the Sahara known as the Tuaregs. As a young boy he picked up a guitar and taught himself to play play by listening to cassettes with Jimi Hendrix and Dire Straits – much like Jimi Hendrix learned to master his instrument by listening to blues on the radio.
Bombino starts his set at Alice with three songs on an acoustic guitar. For the fourth song he changes for an electric guitar, and the drummer, who until then has been playing a traditional African (I guess) drum, takes his place behind the drum kit. And from then on there is no way back. For the next hour and half Bombino and his brilliant band blow Alice away, and even though Bombino doesn’t really say much – the bassist is quite talkative, thbombinoough – the band even manages to get the audience to sing a long. Since its unlikely that anybody in the crowd have any idea about what they are singing it turns out as a rather bizarre, but uplifting choir that interprets his lyrics song in Tamasheq to something like “uhmm-mæh-uhmm”. Its seems like everyone in the room are enjoying themselves.
Something has to be said about the way Bombino plays his guitar. His style is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. He picks mainly with his thumb and index finger, much like many folk guitarists, but there is something about the way he touches it. To me it looks like he has the gain turned all the way up, so that that the slightest touch can be heard, which makes the guitar harder to play, every mistake will be blown out of proportions, but also opens up for a lot of additional notes and sounds. Whatever he does it is endlessly fascinating to watch his long fingers move up and the fretboard of the Cort G280DX JSS guitar (which is worth mentioning because it is not at all a fancy guitar).
In 1976 Sex Pistols played a gig in Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. There were not a lot of people, but many of those who were there went a did something incredible, and the gig acted as a catalyst for the formation of bands like the Smiths and Joy Division. If a few young musicians were to be found among the audience as Bombino brought the desert to Alice, they would likely go home and try to figure out how he could play the way he did, do something amazing and name the show at Alice as a turning point in their approach to their instrument.

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