Don’t Take Playing Your Guitar For Granted

The price of gas, disappearing social services, houses going into foreclosure, the vanishing middle class, there seems to be a lot to complain about these days.  I am guilty of bitching away hours of my life swearing the world is out to get me,  only to eventually read an article about people who have had to overcome real adversity making me realize I’m being a self centered schmuck.  Right now as I type this I have a roof over my head, a cup of coffee, internet, clothes on my back, and no worries that my country’s military might kill me for playing my guitar.  Sometimes I have to be reminded about how good I really do have it and be grateful for what I have.

I read an article this morning about a guitarist named Goumour “Bombino” Almoctar, a Tuareg exile from Africa.  The Tuareg people have been involved in numerous rebellions against the government of Niger for reasons of neglect and repression.  They have been denied aid in times of drought being left for dead as well as hunted down and killed by their own government.  Often the rebellions would cease when the government would offer them a peace deal,  but would soon ensue when the government would fail to honor the deal.

In 2007 tension grew once again between the Tuareg people and the Niger government as a result of unfulfilled promises which caused suffering amongst the Taureg people.  The Niger government in hoping to dodge another rebellion banned guitars as they were viewed as instruments of rebellion.

“The government knows the guitar is an instrument to mobilize people,” says Bombino, 32, speaking in French and the Tuareg language Tamasheq through an interpreter. “They targeted musicians, and we lost two band members. I left the country, rather than get arrested and maybe killed.”

Since escaping Niger, Bambino has had the opportunity to collaborate with Stevie Wonder, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts and is the subject of the Ron Wyman documentary film Agadez, the Music and the Rebellion.

Reading articles like this remind me of  how lucky I am for being born in a country that not only allows me to speak freely but also pursue my passions without fearing repercussions.

Currently Bombino is touring North America where he doesn’t have to worry about being executed for wielding his guitar.

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