Bombino conjures the expansiveness of the Sahara landscape. Born in 1980 as Goumar Almoctar in the nomadic Tuareg encampment Tidene, Bombino came of age during much political upheaval, fleeing with his family to Algeria by 1990 and returning to northern Niger's largest city, Agadez, seven years later, when he took on music professionally. After years of playing with local bands, legend caught up to him, as he traveled to California in 2006 on tour with Tidawt and recorded a desert blues take on the Rolling Stones classic "Hey Negrita" alongside Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. The following year, filmmaker Hisham Mayet captured Bombino and his electric band for the recording Music from Niger: Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 2, released in 2009 on Sublime Frequencies. As the political landscape heated up in Niger again in 2007, Bombino fled to Burkina Faso, where in 2009 he was tracked down by another filmmaker, Ron Wyman, who wanted to help the artist make a proper record. A year later, Bombino made a safe return to his native land, performing a celebratory concert at the Grand Mosque, and with Wyman's help, completing the record Agadez. Released in 2011, Agadez showcased Bombino's captivating vocals, trance-like guitar playing and evocative rhythms, cited as one of NPR's best discoveries of the year. For his second album, 2013's Nomad, Bombino travelled to Nashville to record with the Black Keys’s Dan Auerbach, and the result is a marvelous set, full of grit and funky elegance, a kind of mesh of Tuareg rhythms with Deep South delta country trance blues, and psychedelic, too, as if Jimi Hendrix and John Lee Hooker somehow got spliced together.
Bombino went to upstate New York to record his third album with his quintet and producer David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors. According to Longstreth's liner essay, the guitarist did everythuing in one or two takes without fail. The finishd album, Azel, was issued by Partisan Recordings in April of 2016.