Last night I went to a concert in the small Pyrenean town of Sallent de Gallego. The concert was by a man called Bombino. I’d never heard of him. He was playing in the ‘Pireneos Sur’ festival here in the town, where you get to hear a different band or artist from a different corner of the globe every night. It’s absolutely terrific.

Bombino is a tall, moustached guitar wizard from a nomdic Tuareg tribe in the Niger Sahara. He grew up in a world so far removed from ours it’s hard to imagine. A matriachal society where grandmothers rule the roost. Where school was pretty much optional. Fleeing armed struggle. Where a guitar fell into his hands and he practiced for hours on end while herding sheep in the desert.

Now he’s become an internationally renowned sort of Berber Jimi Hendrix, travelling the world to sing songs about peace in a region none of us have a clue about, in a Tuareg dialect that no-one can understand, accompanied by wild guitar solos, that send shivers down your spine.

His whole being reverberates with life, cause, purpose, music, energy, Sahara, Africa, tradition, wilderness, and, curiously, he hold it all with an intense ease.

I got home and said to my wife, ‘Our life is “bluuuugh” (meaning dull) in comparison.’ In her usual wisdom she pointed out that our lives are not “bluuuugh” at all. And of course she is right. But here in the ‘West’, we have to guard against dullness constantly.

Thoreau said ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation…’, but these days I’d rephrase that to say ‘Most men and women lead lives of dull materialism’.

Many of us eat, drink, shop, work, in an aimless deadening cycle, tortured by our endless obsessive thinking and difficult, stuck emotions.

Clearly though, we can’t all be Bombinos. Clearly, we don’t have to have grown up in a tribe in the Sahara to be filled with the wonderful energy of life. Our heritage is just as valuable, and valid as Bombino’s. But are we taking life by the balls? Or are we asleep?

Do we know what makes us feel really, truly, alive and in touch with the present moment? Are we present for life right now? Or are we stuck in the convenient, mind-numbing routine of dull materialism?

In my case I’ve found that the dullness changes to a feeling of great aliveness when I get out into the world. Walk in nature. Sit in a plaza and watch people wandering past. Go to a music festival for the first time in the Pyrenees. Take photographs. Walk somewhere I’ve never been before. See new people. A mix of creativity and exploration.

What can Western man and woman do now that we’ve got everything and have nothing to strive for? Keep shopping madly until we’ve ruined the poorest half of the planet, then ruined our half of the planet too? Or be Bombinos, and take up a pen or a guitar or a camera or just a hiking stick and let art and deliberate living provide us with an answer.

At the very least, we can turn off whatever we’re reading this on, and really engage with what’s going on around us. Be absolutely present for life, friends, family, the present moment, now, today. Put on our walking shoes and get out. That’s already enough.

9 thoughts on “Bombino

  1. Thanks Ben. I seem to struggle to stay in the present more and more these days and technology really doesn’t help me with this. We’re off to the pyrenees this weekend so I’m looking forward to turning off and hopefully I can be a Bombino. 😉


  2. Awesome, Ben. I’m printing out your thoughts so I can read this whenever I’m feeling stuck and in a rut. And I’m sending a copy to both my grown children!


  3. The best moments in life are spent with family and friends away from technology. (Except for a camera – :)) Thank you for sharing your wonderful articles.


  4. So well expressed. Much gratitude to you, Ben.

    I have so much, but too often find myself searching. For what? Lately I am trying to remind myself that there is nothing to search for. Everything is here right at this moment. Sometimes, though, I want to push it away because it’s not what I think I want. Or I want to hold on to it — sort of a “foreboding joy” as Brene Brown calls it in her great book “Daring Greatly”–because I am afraid to lose it.

    So I love reading your posts because they so often remind me that there is nothing to search for–it is all here. I just need to wake up to it. Break out of those habits that lead to the dullness you speak of. When I am feeling my life is lacking in purpose, I will remember your words as a mantra: let deliberate living provide me with the answer. Thanks again, Ben.


    1. Thanks James, I think it is the key to everything – that there is nothing to search for. I write about it often here but still have to remind myself constantly too. It’s so easy to start searching again.

      Great to hear from you.


  5. Love this Ben. I am feeling a shift within to a less consumerist (?) lifestyle but worry about my children growing up where we live as it is very difficult to escape the buy, buy, buy mentality. It’s easier as they are home educated so don’t have the peer pressure all day every day at school. but it’s increasingly difficult as they get older. I would love to take them travelling, even for a year, just to expose them to alternative ways of life and people…….hmmmm


  6. I’m sure you know the famous John Lennon quote…

    “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

    I guess it doesn’t need to be that way if we just woke up.

    Though he did also say…

    “I am the Eggman, I am the Wulrus.”

    So I’m not sure what to believe tbh.

    I’d just like to thank both you and Marina for NotesInSpanish. I know you’ve left that behind now but it’s been a joy listening to you both, and I appreciate you leaving the learning vlogs on YouTube as well. If I ever do get to a good level in Spanish, those podcasts will have played a huge role.

    Cheers Ben. 🙂


    1. Thanks Paul. We’re still fully there for Notes in Spanish even if we haven’t made new audios recently! Great Lennon quotes, yes quite a difference between the first and the second 🙂


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