Of the many (we'll get to that) famed North African guitarists, Bombino has, over the past near-decade, seemed to be the most willing to kitchen-sink his sound, to give his music a modernist momentum and panoramic scope.
On "Deran Deran Alkheir," his homage to a Tuareg wedding song, the drums are recorded deep, fast and loud, giving the song's thrust a counter-intuitive aggression that wouldn't be out of place on a Dead Rider song. Everywhere else, in the claps and the chants and the signature and mesmerizing thicket of Bombino's guitar is a clear celebration. The song almost sounds like a gaggle of overexcited children, play-fighting and rolling down a hill, laughing all the way through the tumble.
But always, it comes down to that guitar, four-armed and bristling, nothing less than a constant homage to the inextinguishable light of human energy. The region's famed guitarists and guitar-focused bands are legion — Songhoy Blues, Doueh, Sidi Touré, Ali Farka Touré, Tinariwen, Imharhan — and invariably astounding. Each is distinct, some from different traditions, some from shared histories. But the old influences the new and the historical, musical relationship between their work is clear.
Bombino doesn't distinguish himself from this company through his modesty or his pure love of making music, qualities that seem to be universal within this community, but in his seizing of opportunities to augment these shared traditions — "tuareggae" and recording with David Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors. Here, even with his reinterpretation of a traditional song, that forward focus is plain.
Deran comes out May 18 via Partisan Records.