The desert is often romanticized in modern music. From Josh Homes’ Desert Sessions and Six Organs of Admittance’s “The Desert Is a Circle” to Magic Lantern’s “Cactus Raga,” the desert’s vast desolate landscape and its encompassing mystery is revered for its ability to inspire. As a Southwesterner, I’ve often fallen pray to this admiration, and I generally flock to music associated with the desert in any way. The Sublime Frequencies label hails from Seattle (a lush location for the home of so many arid sounds), but it has found a more authentic desert sound than most of the American underground. Group Bombino’s Guitars From Agadez Vol. 2 is a further exploration into the Saharan guitar culture, and the music doesn’t merely rely on desert themes or use the desert as a muse; it is entirely a product of the desert.
Sublime Frequencies has proven that Saharan guitar culture is flourishing. The label introduced the scene to Western audiences through the auditory documentary Folk Music of the Sahara: Among the Tuareg of Libya and the group Tinariwen, which translates to "many deserts" (after the Tuereg belief that the Sahara is a region of numerous deserts). Since its initial Tuereg guitar release, the label has put out Group Doueh’s Guitar Music from the Western Sahara and Group Inerane’s Guitars from Agadez.
It’s the second in the Guitars from Agadez series, but it’s a perfect introduction to the Tuereg guitar sound because it features the two fundamental styles. The first side displays what Sublime Frequencies calls “dry guitar,” a stripped-down acoustic style, whereas the second side boosts the vigor with the Tuereg electric sound. Propelled by the innovative guitarist Omara Mochtar, Group Bombino offers a vivid glimpse into one of the most hidden regions and ethnic groups on the planet.
The Tuereg, a suppressed minority group in the Western Sahara (primarily in Mali and Niger), have struggled for autonomy for nearly a century: Group Bombino’s revolutionary sound parallels this struggle. The area of Agadez, where Group Bombino resides, has been shut off from the rest of region. Although the political turmoil in Agadez is as dismal as the harsh environment that encompasses the region, Bombino’s reverberations are hopeful, optimistic and fertile.