Blue Note New York
Bombino plus Etran De L’Aïr at Sony Hall

    Blue Note Jazz Festival

    • Bombino

      Guitar luminary + Tuareg folk hero Omara “Bombino” Moctar knows the nomadic life well. Being constantly on the road for his music while also perpetually on the move throughout the Sahel region of Africa is the norm. So when the pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt, Bombino found himself in an unfamiliar space: being in one place. “I’m used to traveling virtually every week and then I was locked down for two years,” he says from his home in Niamey, the capital of Niger. “On the positive side, I get back in touch with my home and spend real time there with my family for the first time in a long time.” What resulted was the follow-up to 2018’s Deran, a record that turned Bombino into the first-ever Grammy-nominated artist from Niger. This new collection of songs, entitled Sahel after the African region spanning East-West from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, is Bombino’s most personal, powerful, and politically-minded work to date. It’s also his most sonically diverse, a quality he set out to achieve from the start, and one that is meant to directly mirror the complex tapestry of cultures and people that make up the Sahel region itself. He says, “the general plight of the Tuareg is always on my mind and while I’ve addressed it in my music all along, I wanted to give it a special focus on this album.” To bring the songs to life, Bombino worked closely with Welsh producer/ mixer David Wrench (David Byrne, Frank Ocean, Caribou, Goldfrapp, Erasure,The xx, Sampha), decamping with his bandmates to a studio in Casablanca for ten days to lay down the album. “Bombino’s an incredible musician, easily one of the best musicians I ever worked with,” Wrench says with fondness of seeing the Tuareg guitarist up close. “What he does looks effortless, but it's so complex. It’s such a refined style, it’s so him, it’s unique. It contains all this history in it, it’s amazing.” The feeling is mutual. While Bombino has been fortunate to have sympathetic guitarists like Dan Auerbach and David Longstreth sit in the producer’s chair in the past, Wrench provided a new level of expertise. “What I love about working with David is just how incredibly fine-tuned his ear is, how incredibly focused he gets in the studio,” Bombino says. “Nothing escapes him. Even the tiniest little things would grab his attention and he would put great focus into the smallest details of the sound.” Time and time again, Wrench would watch Bombino blaze through an amazing take in the studio, then go right back “and double-track it and it’s just perfect. He’s operating on some different level somewhere.” The ten songs that comprise Sahel range in theme from the plight of the Tuareg to the ache of lost love to the follies of youth. Opener “Tazidert” preaches patience even as the music itself urges you to stand up and move. The driving “Aitma” features Bombino’s sparks-spraying guitar pyrotechnics, punctuated by howling ululations. It’s a call-to-arms delivered in his native Tamasheq. “Let's defend our people because we are the same regardless of our geographical position,” he says as he shouts out the Tuareg throughout the region. He explains: “When you look at the situations in each of the five countries that make up the Sahel (Libya, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, and parts of Burkina Faso), the Tuareg people are not represented in these governments.” And only recently did that situation change in Niger. Sahel looks forward and to the past, a mix of new and old songs, but each one of them resonated with Bombino for one reason or another. “A lot of bands go into the studio with a set of tracks that they’ve rehearsed, but that’s not how Bombino works,” Wrench says. “He goes with what he’s feeling at the time and it’s a much more instinctive way of recording. He’s drawing from this memory of these hundreds of songs he’s written. He pulls from that well of his own work and the history of his culture; he pulls out of that what he feels is right.”
    • Etran De L’Aïr

      Etran de L’Aïr (or “stars of the Aïr region”) welcomes you to Agadez, the capital city of Saharan rock. Playing for over 25 years, Etran has emerged as stars of the local wedding circuit. Beloved for their dynamic repertoire of hypnotic solos and sun schlazed melodies, Etran stakes out a place for Agadez guitar music. Playing a sound that invokes the desert metropolis, “Agadez” celebrates the sounds of all the dynamism of a hometown wedding. Etran is a family band composed of brothers and cousins, all born and raised in the small neighborhood of Abalane, just in the shadow of the grand mosque. Sons of nomadic families that settled here in the 1970s fleeing the droughts, they all grew up in Agadez. The band was formed in 1995 when current band leader Moussa “Abindi” Ibra was only 9 years old. “We only had one acoustic guitar,” he explains, “and for percussion, we hit a calabash with a sandal.” Over the decades, the band painstakingly pieced together gear to form their band and built an audience by playing everywhere, for everyone. “It was difficult. We would walk to gigs by foot, lugging all our equipment, carrying a small PA and guitars on our backs, 25 kilometers into the bush, to play for free…there’s nowhere in Agadez we haven’t played.”

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