You Don’t Know the Blues: Bombino Returns with “Inar”

Bombino's new album promises to be great because the Black Keys are nowhere near it.
By    January 26, 2016


Will Schube told Vampire Weekend about Paul Simon and Paul Simon about the African continent.

In 2013, Bombino (an affectionate play on the Italian bambino) released Nomad with production help from Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. As if ruining blues wasn’t enough for him, Auerbach decided to get his hands on one of the great African guitar players and appropriate him for white audiences that love seeing concerts in Central Park. Just like the Blues style Auerbach and bandmate Patrick Carney stripped raw and re-packaged as soulless caricature, the worry was that Auerbach would suck Bombino of what made him so good. It’s not really paying homage if you have no interest in giving credit. Luckily, Bombino escaped the encounter relatively unscathed, although Nomad isn’t great.

Bombino (real name: Omara Moctar) was first put on the American radar by the oft-tremendous label Sublime Frequencies. The Seattle-based company released Guitars from Agadez, vol. 2, a tremendous collection of vibrant songs credited to Group Bombino. Shortly after, David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors discovered the Tuareg musician, and that’s where we find ourselves now. Coming this spring is the latest from Bombino, which was helmed by Longstreth this time around. This is quite the encouraging development—a serious 180—as the Projectors mastermind has shown an affinity and appreciation towards the intricate guitar rhythms that make up Bombino’s core sound. Longstreth is precisely the sort of guy who knows World Music isn’t one thing, but thousands.

The first single from Bombino’s new album is “Inar,” a rich tune full of handclaps and acoustic instrumentation that feels as powerful as anything amplified. Guitar music always runs the risk of growing monotonous over the course of an album, but Bombino’s feel for the ways in which melody and rhythm can weave together is what makes him so special. “Ina” is infectious and joyous—a celebration. Having emerged from the darkness of the Black Keys school of appropriation, Bombino’s music sounds his own, which is about as far from Auerbach as one can get.

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