Bombino was born in 1980 in Tidene, Niger, a Tuareg encampment about 80 kilometers northeast of Agadez. He is a member of the Ifoghas tribe, which belongs to the Kel Air Tuareg federation. Following the outbreak of the Tuareg Rebellion in 1990, Bombino, along with his father and grandmother, were forced to flee to neighboring Algeria for safety. During this time, visiting relatives left behind a guitar, and Bombino began to teach himself how to play. He later studied with renowned Tuareg guitarist, Haja Bebe. Bebe asked him to join his band where he gained the nickname "Bombino", which is derived from the Italian word "bambino", that means 'little child'. While living in Algeria and Libya in his teen years, Bombino and his friends watched videos of Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler and others to learn their styles. He worked as both a musician and a herder in the desert near Tripoli. By 1997, Bombino had returned to Agadez and began life as a professional musician.
His latest album, Azel, was released on April 1, 2016 on Partisan Records. Azel was recorded in Woodstock, New York at Applehead Studio and was produced by Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors. Fans of Bombino and Tuareg music in general will notice a few remarkable innovations on this album. The first is the introduction of a new style Bombino is pioneering that he affectionally calls ‘Tuareggae’ – a sunny blend of Tuareg blues/rock with reggae one-drop and bounce. Another is the first-ever use of Western vocal harmonies in recorded Tuareg music, (due to Longstreth’s influence) which give the songs new depth and color. Finally, the band behind him is tighter and more energetic than ever before. The result is Bombino's best, most well-rounded, and groundbreaking album to date.