If I was asked to name a stand out guitarist on the indie scene today I would absolutely and confidently say Mdou Moctar. This name for sure would get blank stares from many and I would follow up my answer with something like “C’mon, you don’t know the Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Mdou Moctar? He successfully has forged his own Saharan style with rock into something you probably have not heard before. His music is driven home by his guitar shredding, drum rhythms and thoughts on love, religion and women’s rights.” I probably would also then mention that most of his tracks are sung primarily in Tamasheq which are then surrounded by his band’s group chants.
At this point, I may have lost some of you but have some faith in the music. Right from the opening track “Chismiten,” Moctar will mesmerize you with his self-trained left handed guitar skills as he breaks the track open repeatedly with solos that will make you turn up the song and tighten your headphones just a bit. The title track is another highlight on the album and is the longest song on the record at just over 7 minutes. It has plenty of changing moments which one of my favorites is the scorching psych and reverb guitar that soars on its last two minutes. This is where you completely forget that Mdou Moctar is from the West African country of Niger and not Australia. As I said before, the music on this album is sung in Tamasheq but if you check out the inner sleeve of the record you get an English translation of all the songs which simply adds to the powerful message Mdou Moctar has delivered.
Moctar’s 2019 breakthrough, Ilana (The Creator), was the groups first full-band studio album and Afrique Victime builds on that experience and sounds even more at ease with the process. It’s sharp, well planned out and sounds polished but also still has the intimate sitting around the fire vibe to it. Especially on a slower song like “Tala Tannam,” you can hear every lyric and every strum with its more acoustic type structure. That is the magic of Mdou Moctar because even though most of his songs are built on one or two chord riffs, his solos raise the bar for each song and you can hear the other highly talented members playing off his energy. Afrique Victime represents Mdou Moctar’s best music to date, as it is thunderous, energetic and powerful! The synergy created here easily makes Afrique Victime a contender for one of the top spots at the end of the year when TFN is counting its favorite 50 of 2021.
Key Tracks: “Tala Tannam” / “Asdikte Akal” / “Afrique Victime”
Artists With Similar Fire: Jimi Hendrix / Ryley Walker / Bombino
-Reviewed by Christopher Anthony