By Jenni Gate
From some of the least hopeful places on the planet comes some of the most hopeful music. Throughout Africa, the trend in pop culture is for musicians to uplift and inspire, with folk instruments, upbeat rhythms, and lyrics. They sing of their own transitions from desolation to optimism, or give tribute to the struggles of their compatriots.
Last week, Bombino, one of Africa’s fastest-rising musicians, released the album Nomad to critical acclaim. The album was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, and the result is mesmerizing. Omara Bombino Moctar is a Tuareg born in Niger in 1980 in the midst of cultural and political upheaval. The Tuareg are a nomadic ethnic group common throughout northern Africa from Burkina Faso to Mali, Niger, Algeria, and Libya. Due to their nomadic lifestyle, they have been the subject of violent suppression since the days of colonialism. With North African governments seeking to restrict their movements as population growth stresses the desert environment, the Tuareg have found themselves marginalized and repressed. This led to several uprisings and reprisals from the 1960s through the present. Bombino grew up in the midst of violence. His family was forced to flee Niger several times to neighboring Algeria and later to Libya. During his years in exile, Bombino taught himself to play the guitar, watching videos of Mark Knopfler, Jimi Hendrix and others until he mastered their styles. In 2007, the government of Niger outlawed the guitar and executed two musicians, forcing Bombino to flee once again. His sound is electrifying with a voice like butter accompanying high-energy guitar and in the process encapsulating the sounds of rebellion and optimism. His music speaks of peace and rights for the Tuaregs spread throughout the Sahara.
This video about the making of Nomad includes background about Bombino and the history of the Tuareg people:Watch Bombino’s performance of a simple, yet beautiful Tuareg dedication song:
Listen to sample tracks from the album Nomad and discover more about this fascinating nomadic musician here:
|Photo: Harry Wad, CC by SA 3.0|
In the midst of the current conflict in Mali, the couple has joined with several other musicians to speak out against the violence. See the story about this effort at: http://www.npr.org/blogs/allsongs/2013/01/18/169730172/watch-a-supergroup-from-mali-sing-for-peace
Je Pense à Toi:
A recent video about the current political situation in Mali:
Watch and listen to their official videos and songs here: http://www.youtube.com/amadouandmariam
|Baloji. Photo: by Peter Forret, CC by 2.0|
Out of the blue, he received a letter from his mother who had not been in contact since 1981. His mother commented in her letter that when she sent him to Belgium she had intentionally sent him to the land of Marvin Gaye. Baloji deeply considered that musical legacy contrasted with the current condition of people in war-torn Congo. He realized that his life perspective was skewed. Rather than being a victim of a cross cultural childhood, he was fortunate to have escaped the intense poverty and violence of the Congo. When they spoke by phone, his mother asked him what he’d been doing for all the years they were apart. He produced his first solo album, Hotel Impala as a way to respond with the highlights of his life. Compelled to return to Kinshasa, a city built for 500,000 people but now home to over 12 million, he began a journey of exploration and self-discovery. Music in the Congo had not changed much in 25 years. Caught up in the feverish energy of the city, Baloji turned his confused cross-cultural identity into a strength. In just six days, he recorded the album Kinshasa Succursale with Congolese bands Konono No 1 and Zaiko Langa Langa. The album reworked several songs from Hotel Impala with several new songs, all blending Congolese instruments and rhythms. Gritty music videos were filmed on the streets of Kinshasa.
Karibou Ya Bintou (meaning Welcome to Limbo) is the signature track. It tells the tale of how he evolved from an angry young man to a music sorcerer, a creative spirit fully engaged with his cultural identity. Here is the video with English subtitles [for mature audiences only]:
Mellower sounds abound in Le Jour d’Après, which harkens back to the more constrained musical days of Independence.
If you happen to be in Britain this summer, catch a train tour called the African Express. About 80 musicians, including Amadou and Mariam and Baloji, are riding a train across country to promote the best in African music. Many of these artists have compelling personal stories, coming from war-torn areas, or overcoming lives of turmoil. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/aug/26/africa-express-bound-for-glory