Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Bombino: Agadez [Cumbancha, 2011]
Omara Moctar--the "Al" has fallen into disuse as he internationalizes--remains easily the loveliest of the Tuareg guitarists to come our way, and in fact this album was begun in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, home studio of a filmmaker who documented the Tuaregs' battle for autonomy in Niger. He's absorbed many Western guitarists into a style few will hear as Western without a cheat sheet, and sings quietly, like he's thinking about it. Relative to most Tuareg music, the result is pretty tame. But its directness and calm take on spiritual weight when you learn that Bombino lost two members of his band during the most recent phase of the now quiescent and perhaps permanently resolved war. Cumbancha's representatives to the world congress tend polite, but as a corollary the label considers it good manners to offer expanded explanation, documentation, and visualization online. Avail yourself. A-