In Rotation: Bombino’s ‘Agadez’


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A few Fridays ago a Tuareg guitarist who goes by the name of Bombino performed at the Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park with a three piece backing band. The Tuareg are a nomadic people who have roamed the Sahara desert, primarily in Mali, for centuries, and at the evening performance (he played the other Levitt in Pasadena the night prior), the guitarist offered an exquisite set of groove-oriented North African songs that combined the rhythms of the region – an area where Middle Eastern and African beats converge -- with a unique, jangly guitar tone that suggested the solos of acknowledged inspiration Jimi Hendrix with a little Tom Verlaine thrown in, and an ethereal, Zen-like vibe that must have something to do with the spirit of the desert.


Like compatiots Tinariwen, Bombino was a soldier who traded the gun for the guitar; his percussionist, who served as interpreter for the evening, explained to the rapt crowd that Bombino felt more empowered holding a guitar, and it showed both at Leavitt and on his glorious new album “Agadez,” a sweet, honest collection of bounce-along meditations that sound fantastic rolling down Sunset Boulevard with the sun roof open and the stereo at peak volume.





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--Randall Roberts