Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime review – wild, virtuosic Tuareg blues

The Nigerien guitarist and band sizzle on a deeply satisfying album that pays unusual homage to his early career

It seems fitting that the first album on Matador (and his sixth in total) from the Nigerien guitarist Mdou Moctar should not come only in the usual formats – CD, vinyl and download – but also preloaded on to a limited-edition Nokia 6120, as a decade ago it was via Bluetooth mobile swaps that his music originally spread across the Sahara. Since then, he has starred in a Tuareg-language remake of the film Purple Rain and been a fierce critic of France’s colonial legacy. But it’s still as a musician that Moctar is at his most expressive, his brand of hypnotic desert blues infused with field recordings and virtuoso instrumental work.

Indeed, the most immediate songs here are those where his fluid soloing takes centre stage, as on album opener Chismiten. Even better is the seven-minute title track, a lament for the continued exploitation of his continent and its peoples that explodes into wild, Hendrix/Van Halen-inspired pyrotechnics for its lengthy coda. It’s made all the more thrilling by the fact that while Moctar is busy conjuring extraordinary sounds from his guitar, the rest of his band keep upping the song’s tempo. Pleasingly, he is no less affecting on his more gentle, acoustic material, as on stripped-back recent single Tala Tannam.

Watch the video for Tala Tannam by Mdou Moctar

• This article was amended on 24 May 2021. An earlier version incorrectly described Mdou Moctar as Nigerian, rather than Nigerien.


Phil Mongredien

The GuardianTramp

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