Bombino brings banned music to Adelaide

Friday, March 6, 2015

The son of poor villagers in Niger, Bombino was set to come a long way to perform at WOMADelaide, the annual world music and dance festival held in Adelaide from March 6 to 9. His unique blend of desert blues and hardcore rock 'n' roll was sure to fire up this year’s main stage. Vanessa Powell spoke to the performer.

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Bombino, can you tell me about the traditional music of Niger? Does your music incorporate traditional styles?

Yes, my music is a mix of traditional Tuareg music and rock and blues music from the West. There are many traditional music styles in Niger, several for each ethnic group. There are more than 10 ethnic groups in Niger. My music is based on the music traditions of the Tuareg, my culture.

You came from a nomadic Tuareg tribe who resisted oppression. What was the role of music in this struggle?

Our music has always been a very important part of our identity and our culture. The Tuareg always look to music as a source of inspiration, especially in times of struggle. During the last resistance, our music was largely banned by the government because it brought people together and inspired pride. Our musicians were persecuted by the government. All of this was because music plays such an important role in our community.

You’ve spent much of your life living in exile. Does your music tell this story or is it more a universal message?

The lyrics of my music are universal in their messages, though they are based on my personal experiences. I like to write lyrics that all people can use as advice or inspiration in their own lives.

How have your homelands changed over the years? I know you've been working in Nashville recently. Do you still return home?

Niger has gone through a lot of changes in the past 10 years. Ten years ago, we were in the start of a war that sent me into exile for more than two years. Since then there has been great improvement in the relations between the Tuareg and the government. Things are peaceful now and I am hopeful that we can achieve real development and lasting peace together as Nigeriens.

Jimi Hendrix is one of the influences from your youth. Can you tell us what influences your music now?

I love rock music and reggae music. Jimi is still a huge influence on me, as is Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. But the biggest influences remain the great Tuareg groups like Tinariwen.

What can audiences expect from your performance at this year’s WOMADelaide?

I like to play music with a lot of energy and to get the crowd moving and dancing. I hope to share Tuareg culture with the people of Adelaide, but my first and most important goal is to bring joy through my music.

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