Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victime (Matador Records, 2021)

Mdou Moctar grew up in the Nigerian village of Tchintabaraden. His family’s disapproval of electric music led to makeshift guitars with strings made from bicycle wires.

Mdou Moctar

Later you’ll find his nascent talents were captured on mobile phones and memory cards to be distributed throughout West Africa, before he was discovered by Sahel Sounds label founder Chris Kirkley.

And here comes perhaps most surprising part: he made the first feature-length film shot entirely in the Tuareg language of Tamasheq, the Prince homage Rain The Colour Of Blue With A Little Red In It.

The new “Afrique Victime” follows on from first album Ilana (The Creator) from 2019.

Mdou Moctar

With “Afrique Victime” the prodigious Tuareg guitarist and songwriter rips a new hole in the sky – boldly reforging contemporary Saharan music and “rock music” by melding guitar pyrotechnics, full-blast noise, and field recordings with poetic meditations on love, religion, women’s rights, inequality, and Western Africa’s exploitation at the hands of colonial powers.

If “Ilana” was a late ’60s early ’70s ZZ Top and Black Sabbath record – “Afrique Victime” is mid-’70s to early ’80s Van Halen meets Black Flag meets Black Uhuru. The ferocity of Moctar’s electric guitar and the band’s hypnotic rhythm section are on awe-inspiring display “Chismiten” and the mournful yet incandescent title track.

Elsewhere, Moctar finds inspiration in highlighting lesser-known facets of the group: “While people have gotten to know Mdou Moctar as a rock band, there is a whole different set of music with this band done on acoustic guitars, which we wanted to incorporate into this album in order to go through a sonic journey,” he says. Mdou pays homage to one of his heroes Abdallah Ag Oumbadagou, the legendary Niger musician and political revolutionary, on songs “Ya Habibti” and “Layla”.

“Abdallah was a contemporary of Tinariwen and helped to pioneer the sound of Tuareg guitar music blended with drum machines and electronic sounds”.

“Afrique Victime” sounds and feels like a Tuareg hand reaching down from the sky, and we are very lucky for this chance to get lifted.

NMR (press Mdou Moctar)