Interview
Photo: WH Moustapha.

Mdou Moctar Explains the Meaning of 'Afrique Victime'

We chat to the high-flying Niger guitarist about his latest album and the role colonial powers have played in crimes across his Tuareg community and the rest of Africa.

Mdou Moctar's voice is ringing loudly in my ears as we sit 5000 miles apart to talk about his latest album Afrique Victime, which came out recently on New York's legendary Matador Records. Calling from the ancient city of Agadez, he tells me that "music is forbidden in Islam" and whilst listening to "Chismiten", the opening track to this wildly graceful record, you can almost understand why.

As crunching footsteps lead you in, giving immediate context to space and terrain, the majestic reverb of spiraling riffs and high-pitched cries fling you into a world of infinite zooming. It offers no less than the promises of the cosmos, a psychedelic weaving at hand that evokes the many mysteries that can be rung from a guitar. Backed by a rhythm section that lurches into terrifying joy, Mdou Moctar is a man absolutely possessed by talent, unafraid. A timeless voice from the dusty villages of Niger that soothes and provokes in equal measure.

From the chaotic and violent crescendos of the title track to the plaintive voices that echo through you in "Tala Tannam" there are moments on this record that match the most defiant wile outs of Jimi Hendrix. Jimi grooved to Tuareg and Berber rhythms, himself, when travelling down the coast of 1970's Morocco, but Mdou Moctar has created a whole new experience. And whilst calling out the crimes being committed by the French military in his region, where blood spills over Uranium are a very real thing, he points a finger at us all. It's a feeling that is hard to shrug off.

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