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Bombino. Photo: Richard Dumas / Partisan Records.

Bombino "Gets Closer to Africa" In His New Tuareg Blues Album 'Deran'

Tuareg legend Omara "Bombino" Moctar returned to Northern Africa to record his fifth proper album.

The exciting new full-length from Bombino serves as a career retrospective of sorts, touching on the different styles and various iterations of this renowned musician born in Niger. On Deran, the desert blues, traditional folk, and "Tuareggae" music styles Bombino has experimented with over the last decade come together in an amalgam of perfect unity.

Since his collaboration with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and subsequent signing to Nonesuch, Bombino has been lauded as one of the world's greatest living blues guitarists. Producers like Auerbach and, most recently, Dirty Projectors' Dave Longstreth have collaborated with Bombino in an attempt to capture the raging spectacle of his live show. Most often they came up short. But despite what those American recording studios couldn't reproduce, they excelled in inspiring Bombino to realize the limitless possibilities of his music.


For Deran, Bombino and his band of Tuareg musicians returned to Africa to record at Casablanca's Studio HIBA. Save for the 2014 Glitterbeat album Agamgam 2004, recorded live in the south central Saharan desert Ténéré, this was his first time recording an album in his homeland continent.

"My mission for this album was always to get closer to Africa," he tells his label Partisan Records.

The Moroccan studio space afforded Bombino the time, space and comfort necessary to create an album that truly taps into to the Tuareg region he hails from. "An important thing to know is the desert is a very vast open space," Bombino told The New York Times. "Sound and music there carries a power with it, so you get the feeling when you're holding an instrument in your hand and playing it, you're completing a picture that was otherwise incomplete."

A similar, in-house ethos was considered for collaborators on Deran. The record was produced by Bombino's manager Eric Herman, which is to say the record was hardly produced at all (no shade intended). The executive decision to choose his manager to produce an LP was a brilliant one. Complete independence and total creative agency were things rarely granted to Bombino in the studio. But on these new songs that's exactly the kind of freedom he has.

Bombino makes a conscious effort to strip down some of the bells and whistles Longstreth used to make his last record, Azel. He applies everything he's learned and experienced with an air of sophistication and a certain amount of physical restraint, working against the Jimi Hendrix comparison critics have historically gravitated toward.

For all intent and purposes, it feels as if Bombino's desert has been brought to the studio. The album's closing tracks "Takamba" and "Adouagh Chegren" sound as if they've been recorded live and work well to replicate the sensation of vastness and openness felt during Bombino's famous outdoor concerts in Niger and Algeria.

Bombino's best work might still be ahead of him, but Deran will stand through time as the first record to adequately voice his artistry.

Bombino's 'Deran' is available now from Partisan Records.


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A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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