Omara "Bombino" Moctar is a guitarist and singer from the Sahara desert who has built a
legendary reputation in his homeland as a musical harbinger of peace. Born and raised in
Niger in the northern city of Agadez, Bombino is a member of the Tuareg Ifoghas tribe, a
nomadic people descended from the Berbers of North Africa. For centuries, the Tuareg
tribes-scattered throughout Niger, northern Mali, southern Algeria, and Libya-have fought
against colonialism and the imposition of strict Islamic rule.
During Bombino's lifetime, the Tuareg people have fought the Niger government to secure
their rights on numerous occasions, causing Bombino and his family to flee several times.
During one such exile, relatives visiting from the frontlines of the rebellion left behind
a guitar, and Bombino began teaching himself to play it. He eventually studied with the
renowned Tuareg guitarist Haja Bebe, who asked him to join his band, where he acquired the
nickname "Bombino"-a variation on the Italian word for "little child." While living in
Algeria and Libya in his teen years, Bombino's friends played him videos of Jimi Hendrix
and Mark Knopfler, among others, which they watched over and over in an effort to master
their licks. Bombino worked regularly as a musician and also as a herder in the desert near
Tripoli, spending many hours alone watching the animals and practicing his guitar. He
eventually returned to Niger, where he continued to play with a number of local bands. As
his legend grew, a Spanish documentary film crew helped Bombino record his first album,
Group Bombino: Guitars from Agadez Vol. 2, which became a local radio hit.
In 2009, Bombino met filmmaker Ron Wyman, who had heard a cassette of Bombino's music while
traveling near Agadez. Wyman was enchanted by Bombino's music and spent a year seeking him
out, eventually tracking him down to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where he was in exile after
two band members were killed in a rebellion. (The Tuaregs have since put down their arms
and returned to Niger.) At the end of the war, Bombino returned to Agadez with Wyman and
staged a concert to celebrate the newfound peace that permanently established Bombino as a
hero of the Tuareg people.
Wyman featured Bombino in a documentary he was filming about the Tuareg and also produced
his 2011 solo album, Agadez, which was released on the Cumbancha label and helped
introduce Bombino to a global audience. Since the album's release, Bombino has toured the
US and Europe to critical acclaim. In April of this year, Bombino recorded Nomad
(Nonesuch), an album that debuted at the top of the Billboard and iTunes world