Bombino album review: ‘Nomad’

Photo by Ron Wyman - Bombino.



Kindred spirits: Vieux Farka Toure, Tinariwen, Mark Knopfler

Show: Tuesday at the Hamilton. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 202-787-1000. $22.50 in advance, $25.50 at the door.

Nomad,” the second solo album from Niger-bred singer-guitarist Omara “Bombino” Moctar, opens with a pulsing blues-rock riff. The hook sounds like it might have been devised by the album’s producer, Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach. But this isn’t one of those projects in which a Western patron overpowers an African protege. Auerbach’s influence on Bombino’s buoyant music and versatile playing is significant but subtle.

Bombino is linked by heritage and experience to the band Tinariwen, whose members are nomadic people who call themselves Kel Tamashek. (Outsiders often use the term “Tuareg.”) Where Tinariwen has a slippery sound, though, Bombino’s is clean and precise. Even with its overdubbed guitar parts, and the addition of such potentially incongruous instruments as organ, vibraphone and pedal steel, “Nomad” sounds as open and expansive as the desert celebrated in the track “Her Tenere.”

A giant crane (L) that will lift up the sunken 'Sewol' ferry is silhouetted against the sunset in Jindo on April 24, 2014. Furious relatives of missing victims from South Korea's ferry disaster attacked a top coastguard official accusing him of lying about efforts to retrieve bodies still trapped in the submerged vessel. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURINICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

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The album was recorded while Islamic militants were seizing parts of Niger and Mali, yet the musician doesn’t address that crisis directly. In such rollicking songs as “Adinat” and “Imuhar,” he calls simply for unity and awareness, while the gentler “Zigzan” asks for patience. No more words are necessary, because Bombino does most of his talking with his guitar. It summons listeners to dance and to think with equal authority.

— Mark Jenkins

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