Music Reviews
5:03 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

Bombino: A Desert Rock 'Nomad' Rolls Into Nashville

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 9:56 pm

Tuareg bands are natural rockers. These desert nomads have a history of harsh physical challenges, long separations, nostalgia and rebellion — elements that give their music gritty authenticity. There's something about their ambling, tuneful songs that fits perfectly with the bite and snarl of electric guitars.

When Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys expressed interest in producing an album for Tuareg singer-guitarist Bombino, the latter knew nothing about the Grammy-winning band and producer. But once they met, and especially when Bombino got into Auerbach's Nashville studio, a bond was formed. Fortunately, Auerbach has done nothing to dilute Bombino's folksy, organic songs. Instead, he's given them sonic heft rarely heard on African guitar recordings — and added a few tasteful Nashville touches, like lap steel guitar.

On the new album Nomad, Bombino sings about the need for his people to unite — this at a time when his Sahara Desert homeland is mired in conflict. Bombino is a longtime peace advocate, and in "Imidiwan," he asks his fellow Tuareg to look to their heritage for guidance. The back-porch, country lope of "Imidiwan" marks a departure from the gnarly electric sounds that dominate this session, but it's all part of the Tuareg folk-rock continuum.

Nomad is a seductive, friendly album. It doesn't pander with gimmicks or English lyrics, but it manages to bring a distant Islamic culture unexpectedly close through the universal language of rock 'n' roll.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Bombino is a Tuareg singer and guitarist from the West African country of Niger. His desert rock sound caught the ear of Grammy-winner Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, and Auerbach has produced Bombino's new CD "Nomad." Reviewer Banning Eyre says it is a landmark in African rock music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HER TENERE")

BANNING EYRE, BYLINE: Tuareg bands are natural rockers. These desert nomads have a history of harsh, physical challenges, long separations, nostalgia, rebellion, things that give their music gritty authenticity. And there's something about their ambling, tuneful songs that fits perfectly with the bite and snarl of electric guitars.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HER TENERE")

EYRE: When Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys expressed interest in producing this album, Bombino knew nothing about this multiple Grammy Award-winning band and producer. Once they met, and especially when Bombino got into Auerbach's legendary Nashville studio, a bond was formed. Happily, Auerbach has done nothing to dilute Bombino's folksy, organic songs. Instead, he's given them sonic heft rarely heard on African guitar recordings and added a few tasteful Nashville touches, like lap steel guitar.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMAN")

EYRE: On "Nomad," Bombino sings about the need for his people to unite - this at a time when his Sahara Desert homeland is mired in conflicts. Bombino is a longtime peace advocate, and in this song, "Imidiwan," he asks his fellow Tuareg to look to their heritage for guidance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IMIDIWAN")

EYRE: The back porch, country lope here marks a departure from the gnarly electric sounds that dominate this session, but it's all part of the Tuareg folk-rock continuum. This is a seductive, friendly album. It doesn't pander with gimmicks or English lyrics, but it manages to bring a distant, Islamic culture unexpectedly close through the universal language of rock and roll.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMIDININE")

CORNISH: Banning Eyre is senior editor at afropop.org. He reviewed "Nomad" by Bombino. This week, you can hear "Nomad" in its entirety and watch a full concert with Bombino at nprmusic.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.