mon 20/09/2021

Album: Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victime | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victime

Album: Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victime

Hendrix of the desert blasts away

'Mdou Moctar’s celebratory fury is rooted in different struggles'

Mdou Moctar is often dubbed as the “Hendrix of the desert”. He is not the first West African musician to be linked with African-American guitar stars.

Just as you can hear echoes of John Lee Hooker in Ali Farka Toure, and Taj Mahal could collaborate seamlessly with Toumani Diabate, the young musicians emerging brutally into a world of international mining robbery and fundamentalist terror, naturally find inspiration in music from over the ocean. As with so much in music, the influences flow both way, or, from another point of view, there is an epigenetic kinship resounding through shared DNA.

First promoted by the Portland (Oregon) label Sahel Sounds, along with Les Filles de Illighadad, Mdou Moctar has now been taken on by Matador. The new album remains true to a style that was pioneered by Tinariwen over 40 years ago, although the sound is a little more sophisticated than on Llana (2018). The opening track “Chismiten” is in every way as powerful a mix of psychedelia, metal and desert blues as Mdou Moctar has delivered in the past. This is music that builds on repeated riffs, vocal call and response, urgent hand-clapping and a slow-burning rise to climax. The production enhances the sound of Moctar’s guitar pyrotechnics with just the right amount of reverb. “Saharan Blues” benefits from digital tweaking – as Moctar demonstrated on his very first album Anar (2014) – with a much more meditative sound than his recent recordings, his voice "autotuned" in a way that evokes Bon Iver, matching the trance-like lilt of the music perfectly.

Rock’n’roll (and everything that came out of it, from punk to metal) drew its magical strength from African origins, filtered through an energy that expressed frustration, anger and rebellion. Mdou Moctar’s celebratory fury is rooted in different struggles but the music speaks a similar language. The title track “Afrique Victime" speaks of Africa’s exploitation by colonial forces that continue to reduce the continent to poverty and cultural disorientation. Powerful stuff, that rises towards a guitar solo worthy of Jimi himself, though inevitably only a kind of invitation to see this desert shaman and his band live, in the company of a dancing crowd, preferably in Niger, where the music is rooted. 

The production enhances the sound of Moctar’s guitar pyrotechnics with just the right amount of reverb

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