You don’t have to speak Bombino’s language to understand his music. “I think sometimes it is easier for people to appreciate music when they do not know the words,” the Tuareg guitarist told us (through a translator) ahead of SXSW, and I think he’s right. There’s something thrilling about that lack of context. You’re dropped into the music without a map, and you’ve got to figure it out on your own.
Bombino’s own musical map draws from psychedelic rock and traditional Tuareg music, linking Jimi Hendrix with the Sahara. On his new album, Azel–out Friday via Partisan Records—he worked with the Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth, another idiosyncratic guitarist. Together, they make a sound that’s exciting and fresh, even if it’s drawing on centuries-old traditions. “Timtar (Memories)” is as hazy as the name suggests, bouncing between two chords on top of a reggae-inspired beat. Bombino’s guitar playing is hallucinatory and something to get lost in.