Monday, February 09, 2009

Sublime Frequencies: Group Bombino - Guitars from Agadez Vol. 2

Good new music from a troubled region in Niger, but appears to be sold out from the source. It's better if you know the context.

Group Bombino is the latest salvo from the Agadez music scene. Led by the guitar virtuoso Omara Mochtar (Bombino), the group’s debut LP-- Volume two in the Guitars from Agadez series, represents the latest chapter in the modern sound of the Tuareg revolution. As of 2008, the Tuareg rebellion is in full force again, and Bombino is in exile to parts unknown. Agadez has been cut off from the rest of Niger. The only road that connects this legendary city with the rest of the country is littered with land mines and the only escorts are the military. This music and its messages of hope, justice, and desire for validation of the Kel Tamachek way of life ring louder than ever. Group Bombino are gaining mythic status in and around the Tuareg community for their incendiary live performances. Coming from the same scene as Group Inerane and sharing some of the same musicians, Group Bombino showcase both sides of the Tuareg Guitar style. Side one features the “Dry Guitar” sound, an unplugged selection of songs sung among the dunes and stars of the Tenere desert. Side two showcases the electric fury of the full band, a melding of heavy, psychedelic guitar heroics with a raw garage sound, back beat percussion, all swirling in extended trance rock moves. Recorded live and unfiltered in Agadez and the surrounding desert in early 2007, with the band’s equipment powered by generators and an unflinching dedication to the rebellion, Group Bombino’s music transcends any influence and ignites the raw passion of its message to the outside world. This is a one-time pressing of 1,500 copies. Pressed on 180 gram vinyl and comes in a gatefold full color jacket stocked with great photos of the musicians and liner notes by Hisham Mayet.

Not every African band has a revolutionary backstory, but this one does. In early 2007, Sublime Frequencies co-founder Hisham Mayet discovered Group Bombino in Agadez, a Niger city accessible only by traveling a landmine littered road with a military escort, according to the label. Mayet recorded the group—led by guitar genius Omara Mochtar— live in Agadez and the surrounding desert with generator-powered equipment, and pressed 1500 LPs of the music that was made.

The first half of the record features an almost mournful Mochtar playing acoustic or “dry” guitar, his rhythms punched out with handclaps, the songs sung out in layered voices. The second half is reserved for the thumpers, with Moctar plugged in persistently sustaining a groove, trilling notes over the thick bass. The LP joins two other recent Sublime Frequencies releases that focus on modern African guitar sounds and the Tuareg scene. Years from now, Tuareg may be viewed as this century’s new Delta or Mississippi Hill Country, with Mochtar in the role of RL Burnside and Mayat as its Alan Lomax. (Jason Cherkis)
A bit of what's going on in the region

BAMAKO (AFP) — A hardline Tuareg rebel leader is no longer on Malian territory, a military official said Friday, amid new signs of peace between Bamako and former rebel factions.

Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, whose forces reportedly have been routed by the Malian army, "is no longer on Malian territory. We control all his positions in northern Mali," Captain Alioune Diakite told AFP from the region.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Algerian official claimed to have "the same information."

On Thursday, members of another former Tuareg rebel group, the Alliance for Democracy and Change (ADC), reportedly accepted new government proposals to end the conflict in the north of Mali.

Ag Bahanga's group is the only one that has so far refused to join the peace process, but several members of his group have recently asked Algerian mediators to join.

The Tuaregs are a nomadic desert people who have roamed the southern Sahara for centuries. In recent years they have staged uprisings in both Mali and Niger, claiming autonomy for their traditional homeland.

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