How Bombino Became the Sultan of Shred


The guitarist Bombino, a master of North African desert blues, has spoken with the New York Times, ahead of the release of his sixth album “Deran.”

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North African desert blues (or tichumaren in Tamasheq, the Tuareg language), has become arguably the most successful world music genre to break through since reggae, and few have wielded the guitar with such mastery and majesty as Bombino. His spellbinding virtuosity and urgently dynamic live shows have made fans of fellow musicians from Keith Richards and Robert Plant to Josh Homme and Win Butler, and built him a following that’s crossed over from the world music community to the jam-band circuit.

Bombino sings in Tamasheq, and many of his lyrics highlight the Tuaregs’ profound connection with the desert, their ancestral home. The music itself mirrors the desert: The guitar pyrotechnics of his live show pay tribute to the Sahara’s powerful storms, and the loping rhythm of many of his songs echoes the odd meter of a camel’s gait. “An important thing to know is the desert is a very vast open space,” Bombino said. “Sound and music there carries a power with it, so you get the feeling when you’re holding an instrument in your hand and playing it, you’re completing a picture that was otherwise incomplete.”