Best Kept Secret festival takes place in Tilburg, Netherlands from the 17th-19th June. We’ll be building up to the festival with features on some of the bands involved. Nigerien guitarist Bombino will be playing on the Friday.
Omara "Bombino" Moctar was inspired by watching videos of Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler as well as his local heroes like Tinariwen. His 2012 album, Nomad, was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and it debuted at Number One on the iTunes and Billboard world charts. His most recent album, Azel, was released on April 1st and was produced by David Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors.
Bombino spoke to Musos’ Guide about the new album and his upcoming gigs.
MG: You played SXSW this year. How did that come about, and how was it for you?
B: I could not tell you how it came about, to be honest, as it is my team that makes these plans and not me. I can tell you, though, that I had a fantastic experience in Austin. It is really a cool city and one that agrees with me. The people, the climate, the energy of the city... it was all very cool. I look forward to my next visit there. The festival was completely crazy as everyone told me it would be, but this was nice for me - it was the start of the tour after a very long break of several months, so I welcomed all the action.
MG: You have played at lot in Netherlands before, and this year will be your first time at Best Kept Secret festival. Do you feel it’s going well for you there?
B: Yes. I love the Netherlands and I love to perform there. I do not know this festival but my manager has explained that it is a real honour to be invited to play and so I am very grateful for that honour. I am very excited to return to the Netherlands.
MG: You’ve spoken before about the communal power of music and the government in Niger destroying guitars. We have seen that in Ireland too and elsewhere. It’s hard for some people to think of singing a song as a rebellious act. Is it still the case for you?
B: Playing music is no longer an act of rebellion for me. I am a known musician in Niger and everyone approves of this including the government which has been very good for the Tuareg people lately. At one point in life this was a part of Tuareg rebellion but thankfully those times are in the past now.
MG: On the subject of festivals. Imagine you are curating a festival of your own. You can have anyone, living or dead, perform at it. It can be music, spoken word, anything you would like to see at a festival. Who would be on your line-up?
B: That is an easy question for me. I would have Jimi Hendrix, Dire Straits, Ali Farka Toure, Tinariwen and Santana. For me that's the perfect festival.
MG: You worked with Dan Auerbach on Nomad and now with David Longstreth for the new album. How do you select who you work with, and what do they bring to your sound?
B: I must admit it is not me who picks the producers, it is my manager. He knows what I like and what I don’t like so he arranges this sort of thing for me. I was very happy working with Dave, he had a great sensitivity for our music. What Dave brought to the music was vocal harmonies. He is an expert in vocals and he helped us to add something new to our music by way of these harmonies.
MG: Was there a big difference in the studio this time, in terms of what you had learned the previous times?
B: Yes, absolutely. I felt a great deal more confidence in the studio this time. This is not just because I had more experience in the studio but because I was with my band that I have toured with for years. All the material was developed over months on stage, so to record it was much easier than it was to record my previous albums.
MG: You were influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler. The standard of playing generally is much higher now so many can now match them technically. But who is today’s equivalent of those great guitarists for the feeling of their playing?
B: Wow, I don’t know. To me there is no guitarist alive that can match the feeling in the playing of Jimi or also of Ali Farka Toure who was a real hero for me on the guitar. Of course Mark Knopfler is still alive, in fact I saw him at a festival in the UK last year.
MG: Do you have plans for any UK/Ireland shows?
B: Yes, I will play two shows in London in June at a place called The Forge, June 8 and 9.
MG: You’ve played all over the world now. What’s the strangest place you’ve played?
B: The strangest place I have played would have to be Siberia. I played there in 2011. It was fun but a very strange experience.