The prospect of analyzing an album in a foreign language seemed like a lofty task, but Bombino’s passion and emotion on Nomad made for an excellent auditory lesson. I don’t speak his language (though translated liner notes helped), but Omar “Bombino” Moctar lets his music do most of the songs do the talking. Describing songs like political edged “Adinat“ and “Ahulakamine Hulan” as tribal would be a cop out, as they often feel more like protest songs with an undercurrent of blues. Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys stepped in to produce/release Nomad via Nonesuch Records and is sure to bring added exposure to the talented musician. I’m not familiar with Bombino’s debut album, but Nomad certainly touches upon Auerbach’s pillars of blistering guitar riffs and melodic anthems.
Opening cut “Amidinine” was the track that announced Bombino to my ears (thanks NPR!) and should introduce him to many others. The squeal of the axe proclaims the arrival of a herculean guitar force before launching into a well-paced inescapable bounce. Nomad often stretches songs into progressive jam sessions which is relatively beneficial for listeners (like me) who don’t speak Tamashek. Not to be pigeon-holed as a guitar only act, many songs balance the string work by showcasing other instruments/effects (and possibly Auerbach’s vision) like xylophone (“Imuhar”) and a retro organ (“Niamey Jam”) with short stanzas of lyrics. “Imidiwan” and “Tamidtitin” carry psychedelic folk vibes as Bombino and co. chant to slow rolls of percussion. The tracks almost sounds like Edward Sharpe if he spent time in the Saharan desert, instead of Southern Cali. Let’s hope Bombino’s transition from guitar maestro to the mainstream is as smooth as his jump from Taureg to Auerbach’s studio in Nashville.