The Sydney Festival always provides the perfect opportunity for open-minded music fans to discover new and diverse acts and styles of music. Listening to a few conversations in the queue before the doors opened it appeared there were a quite a number of attendees with little or no knowledge of the music of Omara Moctar, otherwise known as Bombino. What they witnessed over the ensuing hour no doubt converted them as his newest fans.
The first quarter of the performance was a gentle introduction to the quartet’s sound with Bombino playing acoustic guitar and two of the band members playing percussion. The gentle, trance-like nature of the music was the perfect medium to allow the audience to sink into the music of the Niger-based Tuareg musician. The show really stepped up a notch when Moctar swapped his acoustic for an electric guitar and the drummer moved to a full drum-kit. This was when the songs that make up most of his recent Nomad album took flight with extended African highlife and disco-flavoured rock grooves making it near impossible for the crowd to remain stationary. Bombino either closed his eyes and titled his head back or gazed out with a beaming smile around The Spiegeltent as his fingers darted about the fretboard of his guitar, firing stop-start licks that twisted and droned hypnotically. There was just the right mix of funk, rock and though few if any knew the meaning of Moctar’s lyrics there was an innate soulfulness to his singing that transcended translation. Bombino struck the perfect balance of African and Western musical forms, visually complemented by their brightly coloured robes and scarves that made the performance a mesmerising, kinetic and thoroughly absorbing experience.
this review was first published in The Music