It's hard to imagine fearing for your life because you play music, but for Tuareg guitarist Bombino, it was reality.
"There have been times where my life was in danger because I was a Tuareg musician in Niger," he says.
"Twice in my life I had to run from my home because we were afraid of violence," Bombino says. "Very fortunately, all of my family remained safe in those times."
The internationally acclaimed guitarist will perform twice on April 4 at the Savannah Music Festival.
Bombino was born Omara Moctar in a Tuareg encampment about 50 miles northeast of Agadez, Niger. He is a member of the Ifoghas tribe, which belongs to the Kel Air Tuareg federation.
In 1990, when Bombino was 10, the Tuareg Rebellion forced him, his father and grandmother to flee to Algeria. When some relatives left behind a guitar, Bombino began to play it.
"I learned to play just by watching videos and listening to great guitar masters like Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Knopfler, Ali Farka Toure - the big guitarists like that," Bombino says. "I would just sit with the guitar and do my little experiments until I figured it out."
As a teen, Bombino studied with renowned Tuareg guitarist Haja Bebe.
"This was one of the great experiences of my life," Bombino says.
"He was like a father to me and he taught me so much about music and about being a professional musician. Those are two different things and both equally important to have a career in music."
It was Haja who gave Bombino his nickname, which comes from the Italian word bambino, meaning male baby.
"When I joined his band I was a teenager, maybe about 15 years old, and half the age of anyone else in the band," Bombino says. "So I was the baby and they called me 'Bombino.' And of course, soon everyone would call me that and it has stuck with me."
Another mentor for Bombino was Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, founder of the Tuareg band Tinariwen, who at age 4, witnessed the execution of his Tuareg rebel father during a 1963 uprising in Mali.
As a child, Ag Alhabib saw a western film in which a cowboy played a guitar. Using a tin can, a stick and bicycle brake wire, he created his own guitar and taught himself to play it.
Bombino's idols include Jimi Hendrix, Ali Farka Toure, Tinariwen, Dire Straits and Carlos Santana. As a teen living in Algeria and Libya, he and his friends often watched videos of guitarists to learn their styles.
In 1997, Bombino returned to Agadez to work as a professional musician.
"It think it was in working with Haja that I developed the confidence to be a professional musician," Bombino says. "This was great for me because there was nothing else that I wanted to do. My path was very clear from that point."
When performing, Bombino sings in the Tuareg language of Tamashek. He is the subject of a documentary film called "Agadez, the Music and the Rebellion."
In 2007, Bombino and his band, Group Bombino, were recorded at a wedding. That resulted in the release of "Group Bombino - Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 2."
Tensions grew in Niger and in 2007, another Tuareg rebellion erupted. In response, the government banned guitars for the Tuareg.
When two of Bombino's fellow musicians were executed, he was forced into exile in Burkina Faso, unable to return home until January 2010.
At that time, a large concert was organized and Bombino and his band played to more than 1,000 people, all dancing and celebrating the end of their struggle. That was the most memorable event of his career.
"Playing in front of the Grand Mosque in Agadez when we returned from exile and celebrated our freedom - that was the greatest feeling of my life as an artist," Bombino says. "It was such an honor and such pure joy from everyone present. I don't think there are two experiences like that in a lifetime."
In 2010, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys produced Bombino's international solo album "Nomad." His next album, "Agadez," was released in April 2011.
In 2013, Bombino began touring in the United States.
"I have not started, but I plan to record a new album this year," he says.
In Savannah, Bombino will share billing with Fatoumata Diawara, a Malian musician, singer and actress who currently lives in France. After appearing on stage and in films, she took up the guitar and began composing songs that blend Wassalou traditions of Southern Mali with international influences.
Diawara's debut album, "Fatou," was released in September 2011. A year later, she was featured in a campaign called "30 Songs / 30 Days" to support "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," a multi-platform media project that culminated in Kings Cross, where she performed with Paul McCartney.
Bombino is looking forward to his performances at the music festival.
"I am very happy to come to Savannah and share a beautiful experience with you," he says. "We will dance and sweat.
"First I want my audience to experience joy. For me, spreading joy is the most important thing.
"Also I want the audience to experience the beauty of Tuareg music and our culture," Bombino says. "This is the second most important thing to me."