When: Fri., April 8, 8:30 p.m. 2016
Of all the Saharan artists to break out as a result of the ascent of Tuareg guitar group Tinariwen, none has demonstrated a willingness to explore rock hybrids like Nigerien guitarist Omara “Bombino” Moctar. His music has come a long way from his 2009 debut on the Sublime Frequencies label, on which he balances parched acoustic balladry with oversaturated, in-the-red guitar workouts. The new Azel (Partisan) is the third straight studio album he’s cut in the U.S., and after working with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys on 2013’s Nomad, he’s now partnered with David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors. While there’s no missing the syncopation of Jamaican music on certain tracks and a firm shuffling backbeat on others, Bombino hasn’t watered down or betrayed his desert soul—he pulls back a bit from the organ-stoked sound applied by Auerbach. Rhythms still cycle in and out with infectious clopping beats, and hotly bubbling, overdubbed guitar riffs—capped by his own fiery leads—form dense webs of counterpoint. His clenched, nasally voice remains the other key factor, with his lyrics raising concerns about politics and love in his homeland in his native Tamasheq. The novelty of Tuareg guitar music has worn off, but nobody has as skillfully found the sweet spot between its traditions.