It was in 2008 while filming a documentary in Niger focusing on the Tuareg nomads of the Sahara and Sahel regions of Africa that American film maker Ron Wyman first heard the music of Bombino on a car stereo.

Our driver had one cassette – Bombino’s music. We listened to it over and over for about two weeks! It never got old and became the soundtrack for traveling in one of the most magnificent regions in the world […] I decided then that I had to track him down and explore the idea of producing a film about him and the Tuareg culture. When we got back to Agadez, I realized that Bombino had a cult like following; everyone loved his music. His cassettes and CDs were all home-made – he did not have a record label or any ‘produced’ recordings – but his music was everywhere. Ron Wyman – Zero Gravity Films

Ron Wyman tracked down and eventually met with Omara “Bombino” Moctar in 2009 in Burkina Faso where he was living in exile and the musician became the main focus of his documentary Agadez, the Music and the Rebellion (2010). Born in Niger in 1980 and singing in Tamashek, Bombino’s songs reflect his own experience as a young nomadic herdsman and working musician migrating across the Western Sahara depending on droughts. His music also echoes the constant economic and diplomatic marginalisation of the traditional Tuareg culture in modern Africa.

Bombino - Agadez (2011)
Bombino – Agadez (2011)

And as with Tuareg and Malian bands like Tamikrest or the Tinariwen collective, Bombino’s music has become a powerful medium to support the cause of the Tuaregs. During the final year of filming the documentary and with the support of Ron Wyman, Bombino recorded his first solo album. Released to worldwide critical acclaim in 2011 on the Cumbancha record label, Agadez established Bombino as a major recording artist on the World Music scene.

Primarily influenced by West African traditional music and by the desert blues guitar style of Malian legend Ali Farka Toure, Bombino’s music owes also a lot to the guitar playing of modern Western rock musicians. Having watched, listened to and absorbed the music of Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler or Gerry Garcia amongst others, Bombino is equally inclined towards long and electrifying jams on the guitar, and all the more so in a live setting. Featured in Ron Wyman’s documentary and on Agadez, the song “Tar Hani” (My love) sees Bombino finding an instant groove and sustaining it for ten mesmerising minutes.