Album review: "Agadez"
The opening sound on Bombino's "Agadez" is a lonely guitar, echoing vastly as if in the open desert. But the singer-guitarist, born Goumar Almoctar in Niger, soon reveals a communal vibe. Bombino is backed by guitarist Kawissan Mohamed and drummer Ibrahim Emoud Atchinguil, as well as several guest musicians. On songs such as "Adounia" and "Tenere," the emptiness fills with voices and handclaps, and the music becomes joyously inclusive.
"Agadez" is named after the home town Bombino often left, because his people - the Tuareg - are traditionally nomadic and often caught in political turmoil. Recorded in Niger and Massachusetts, the album has a clean, direct sound that emulates Bombino's guitar style. His playing is always precise, whether the passage is intricately melodic or hypnotically rollicking.
Like the band Tinariwen, Bombino often sings about the land and life his tribe has fought to defend. The titles of these 10 songs translate to such phrases as "I Greet My Country" and "The Desert, My Home." Yet American rock fans won't find the music alien or parochial. The exuberant groove and darting solos of "Iyat Idounia Ayasahen," the album's nine-minute epic, have irresistible spirit and universal appeal.
--Mark Jenkins, Dec. 2, 2011