Nomadic Notes

Tuareg musician makes magic and peace in AGADEZ

Posted in Uncategorized by rain4sahara on November 17, 2010

The famous “blue men of the Sahara” are fighting to preserve their traditional way of life.  AGADEZ: the Music and the Rebellion, a documentary by Ron Wyman of Zero Gravity Films, examines the role of music in their culture and politics. AGADEZ is replete with exotic visual and musical experiences as it travels to the Sahara to meet Bombino, a Tuareg musician who Wyman calls “the new generation of Tuareg.” For Rain for the Sahel and Sahara (RAIN), the NGO closely associated with the production of AGADEZ, the film brings awareness about the Tuareg of Niger. The audience’s emotional and celebratory response speaks to the authenticity and humanity of the film and the people it features.

Wyman first traveled to Niger with RAIN; the Niger sites and people featured in AGADEZ were mainly shot at sites of RAIN’s work.  Bombino, a Tuareg guitarist  who has lived through harsh years of rebellion and exile, is well-loved in Niger. RAIN’s decade-long community and the nomads’ appreciation of RAIN’s work allowed Wyman access into the inner-workings of the culture.  “I probably could not have made this film without being associated with RAIN,” said Wyman.  The years-long effort has paid off — AGADEZ brings to brilliant life an amazing story of an ancient people, as told musically through a young, talented musician.   

A Happy Pair: Bombino and his guitar in Burkina Faso, Niger

Much of the Tuareg’s struggle revolves around their fundamental craving for freedom.  Uranium mines have appeared in their homelands and pasturelands, and though they ask for little—schools, hospitals, access to water—they do not share in the profits generated by the mines.  Their traditional ways of surviving economically are disappearing. As Wyman explains: “there is simply no place for camel caravans in a twenty-first century landscape.”  Injustices have sparked Tuareg rebellions against the government.  Now, as featured in the film, the Tuareg people have experienced a collective epiphany — playing the game of democracy and becoming governmentally savvy may yield better results than a rebellion.”  The Tuareg are, according to Wyman, “adamant about keeping their freedom.”

Despite their fierce reputation, Wyman says: “I’ve never felt more embraced or warmly greeted.” AGADEZ features interviews with various members of the Tuareg community about the faire and unusual treatment of women.  We learn that women are unveiled, own property and make decisions within their families and communities.  Wyman’s experience with the Tuareg and his appreciation of their “moral centers” has lead him to believe that the Tuareg can serve as an example for Africa, the Muslim world, and the west.  “They’re a warm, cultured people,” says Wyman. 

RAIN’s mission is to work with nomadic peoples of West Africa to improve their lives through education, water security, agriculture, and income-producing activities.  These locally rooted programs promote literacy and empowerment while sustaining nomadic traditions throughout the Sahel and Sahara.  For more information, visit:

To see Bombino’s January 2010 concert in Agadez, visit:


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