If the master plan succeeds, Mbongwana Star could become the Trojan Horse that penetrates the bastion of the world’s indifference (and revulsion and paranoia) and lifts the curse to bring that creative power out of rue Kato, the Beaux Arts, and other parts of Kinshasa. “The Beaux Arts is like a town within a town,” says Renaud. “Mbongwana Star has started rehearsing there and there’s a correlation with visual artists, stylists, people working on logos etc. It’s this kind of electric movement, this new vibe in Kinshasa that we’re trying to mix in with the music and the image.”
What’s more extraordinary however is Bombino’s fame at home. He’s become a bona fide head-turning airtime-hogging star in his own country, not just amongst the Touareg, who mainly live in Niger’s northern deserts, but amongst the youth of the entire nation. That’s something that no other Touareg artists has ever managed to do, not even Tinariwen.
In 2011 I was sent to New York to write a feature on Tinariwen for the Observer. It was one of the hottest summers in decades – wet hot, rather than dry hot. It was a time of extremes for everyone. Here are some photos I took. My feature ‘TINARIWEN – Guitar poets in Nueva York’ is posted on this site.
Last year, the Festival on the Niger had been cancelled at the last minute. French transport planes full of soldiers and hardware had landed in Bamako only two weeks before the festival was due to start. Now peace was back. So was music. The jihadists tried to ban all music except Quranic chanting in the north of Mali. But it just came back like Whack-a-mole. How could it not?