A Night of Transportive Music with Bombino at Brooklyn Bowl

September 8th, 2014

Bombino – Brooklyn Bowl – September 7, 2014

Context is everything. Take your basic Fender Stratocaster guitar—the de facto rock and roll instrument—and take it to the African desert and put it in the hands of Bombino, and all of the sudden it becomes so much more. At Brooklyn Bowl last night, Bombino’s guitar painted pictures, told stories and inspired. The set began with his band sitting, Bombino playing acoustic backed by percussion, harmonica and electric bass. On paper, they seem like a standard blues band, but following Bombino’s deft playing and singing, the percussion and the harmonica transported the bowling alley to the Sahara, with warm- breeze rhythms and a bleak, stripped-down beauty. Each guitar string seemed to tell its own independent tale, weaving together strands into a larger narrative of strife and redemption.

After a few energizing songs, the band stood as Bombino picked up that Fender and the effects were amplified both literally and figuratively. His Tuareg sound was a mix of Afrobeat and the blues with a flavor of reggae throughout. Its appeal was widespread whether you came to dance or to geek out on guitar, whether you loved your music with a bit of the political or the spiritual. The crowd was a mix of these currents and moved joyously to the music, screaming “BOM-BINO!” in between songs much to the grateful delight of the musicians. While the lights spiraling onto the walls and the ceiling normally turn the room into a dance hall, on Sunday they felt like the infinite stars above the desert, leaving the audience to imagine what sounds the sight must inspire. Bombino filled in those daydreams, decorating each song with an exploratory guitar solo: cascades of sound that were hypnotic and groovy, easy to get lost in as they gathered mass and momentum. These were the jams of a forever horizon that never seemed to get closer, but we kept on riding toward it anyway. —A. Stein