African Tuareg Guitarist/Singer Bombino

Tuareg guitarist and singer Omara “Bombino” Moctar made his Nonesuch Records debut with the release of Nomad on April 2, 2013. The album was recorded with 2013 Grammy Award-winning Producer of the Year Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys at his Nashville studio, Easy Eye Sound. Nomad debuted at #1 on the Billboard World Music album chart and iTunes World chart and has earned rave reviews from top media outlets around the world including BBC World Service, which calls it "utterly, utterly fantastic" and Rolling Stone, which calls Nomad "a perfect match of sound and soul [that] introduces a new guitar hero." His dazzling live performance and virtuosity on the guitar have led notable music critics to compare him to Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Neil Young, and Jerry Garcia.

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 they have fought against colonialism and the imposition of strict Islamic rule.

During his 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 front lines 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. Eventually, Bombino 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’s 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 established Bombino as a hero of the Tuareg people.

Markus James

Roots Blues Traveler Markus James Releases
New Album HEAD FOR THE HILLS,
Recorded in North Mississippi, on October 28th

”The Hill Country is a beautiful place, with lots of trees and shade, somewhere you would want to be, especially if you found yourself in the sweltering delta or in the big city and out of luck”. – Markus James


GRATON, CA – Firenze Records announces an October 28th release date for Markus James’ new album, Head for the Hills. Recorded in Holly Springs, Como, Senatobia and Luxahoma, Mississippi, as well as in Northern California, Head for the Hills showcases Markus James on vocals, electric slide, 3 string cigar box, gourd banjo, slide dulcimer, acoustic guitar, harmonica, beatbox, and a snakeskin-covered 1- string diddley bow. He’s backed by a “who’s who” of North Mississippi Hill Country drummers including Kinney Kimbrough (son of Junior Kimbrough), Calvin Jackson (R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Deep Blues film), Aubrey “Bill” Turner (Otha Turner), and R.L. Boyce (Jessie Mae Hemphill). Also appearing is drummer Marlon Green, who was the last drummer to record and tour with the legendary John Lee Hooker, and who is currently accompanying James live (recent appearances include Montreal International Jazz Festival, Telluride Blues & Brews Festival).

“After my Nightbird album came out in 2003, I started getting offers to go out and play, and one of them was from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg,” recalls Markus James. “I went down there with one African musician and the reaction we received was so great, and I noticed that nobody was asking questions about the connection between traditional West African music and Blues; the people there just dug the music, and they let us know. After that, I started traveling more and more to Mississippi and meeting musicians there, and I was especially drawn to some of the old-school drummers of North Mississippi.”
After performing in Mali, West Africa one year, James had an epiphany about the connections between what he’d heard there and some of the North Mississippi Hill Country music he saw and heard in the film made from Robert Palmer’s classic book, Deep Blues. “I came back to the US and saw the Deep Blues film, and was amazed to see the exact same thing that I had just seen in the sand dunes outside Timbuktu: three drummers and a guy playing what they call a cane flute. It was just such an obvious connection between the musical traditions I had been immersed in in West Africa, and some of the traditional music in North Mississippi. I was on my way back to Mississippi, this time to perform in Oxford at Ole Miss, courtesy of the Blues Archive, and on Thacker Mountain Radio, and this whole process led me to seek out and record, and eventually start performing with some of these great drummers. Traditionally, in North Mississippi, like in West Africa, music is part of life; it’s not just some ephemeral entertainment like a song on the radio, and these guys also do other things like farming, construction, making white lightnin, etc. They are not slick session players who work in studios in a city. So, having recorded in all kinds of rough environments in West Africa, I felt right at home setting up mics on a porch, hanging mics from barn rafters, in a carport, and just rolling; and this seemed perfectly normal to them as well.
“I must have watched the first part of the Deep Blues movie (about North Mississippi) a hundred times; and when I found myself playing with Calvin Jackson in Sherman Cooper’s potato barn in Como, it was like a dream come true. How this all came to pass is a long story. I had befriended the late, great Jessie Mae Hemphill and visited her several times in her trailer in Senatobia. She loved the film I had made, (Timbuktoubab), the African instruments we were playing, and we had a great time hanging out and singing together; and she told me about what she knew of the Africans in her family and about traveling and playing with her grandfather, Sid Hemphill, who is documented in the Library of Congress. Jessie Mae and I were preparing to record together in her trailer, but when I showed up the last time she was on her way to her final resting place.”
James had similar encounters with many of the drummers who’d wind up on his new CD. Kinney Kimbrough had stayed at James’ place in Northern California when he was on tour with another band. They had started recording then, and later in Como, and yet again in Holly Springs, when Markus stayed with Kinney’s family and they recorded in his open-air carport. They have gone on to perform live as a duo (Memphis in May, Beale Street Music Festival, Sonoma County Blues Festival), and Kinney appears in several videos from the new album. Markus also recorded with Aubrey “Bill” Turner and R.L. Boyce, both of whom were mainstays of fife and drum music in North Mississippi. “I have recorded a lot of things with these drummers over the last eight years” says James. “The music on this album includes some of these recordings that work with the theme of the album. One of the highlights of this recording process was, after playing at the Beale Street Festival as a duo with Kinney, I reached Calvin, but he didn’t have his drums and also had just had surgery, so he was unable to drive to Holly Springs. After talking for a while and telling him I was also doing some acoustic things now with my gourd banjo, he suggested he could hambone and so I drove out to his family property in Luxahoma, where we recorded on his sister’s porch, with him hamboning while I played gourd banjo and cigar box. I asked him what about buckets? He said buckets and pots and pans were the first things he had played when he was a kid, so we walked around behind the house and found two five gallon buckets, and recorded with him playing those on the porch. (The sound of feet stomping on the porch was awesome). Each of these drummers has special unique qualities, but they are all connected to the rich musical traditions of Hill Country Music. This is different from Delta Music and it’s not for me to try to explain what that’s about, but I feel that the differences are profound. The Hill Country is a beautiful place, with lots of trees and shade, somewhere you would want to be, especially if you found yourself in the sweltering delta or in the big city and out of luck”.
Background
Markus James has been recording and performing original, blues-based music with traditional West African musicians since 1994, when he first made his way to Niafunke, the northern Mali village that was home to the legendary African bluesman Ali Farka Toure. His five critically-acclaimed Mali-based albums have been warmly received all over the world and he had tracks included on two European compilation sets that also featured Robert Plant, Ali Farka Toure, and Tinariwen, among others. His work with three traditional Malian music masters was the subject of the award-winning documentary film, Timbuktoubab, which was seen on PBS stations around the U.S. His last album, Snakeskin Violin, featured collaborations with trance groove hunters and a shaman in Mali, as well as Calvin Jackson in Mississippi, traveling Tamasheks in California and African Diaspora musicians in the U.S.
Featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” the album also drew rave reviews from Billboard, Living Blues and the “House of Blues Radio Hour” among many others.

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