Words by: Alejandra Cabrera
Mdou Moctar recently released his new album ‘Afrique Victime’, a love letter to the Sahara and its music.
On the new project, the Tuareg artist explores meditations on love, religion, women’s rights, inequality and Western Africa’s colonial exploitation. Ahead of the release, Mdou Moctar had previewed ‘Taliat’ and ‘Tala Tannem’, both with different tempos but the same joyous energy that makes us travel to a warm, ordinary day in the Sahara.
“Taliat means woman,” Moctar says. “In our community, women are queens, they have a lot of power, that is why I use the term ‘taliat’ to talk about them. A woman in the Tuareg community has to be protected, but she also has to be treated as equal.”
Mdou was born in the mid-80s in the desert village of Agadez, in Niger. He is part of the Tuareg, a historically nomadic people found in the Sahara desert. Following the passion of the Tuareg for music, and not without some resistance from his parents, Mdou assembled his own guitar and mastered it via YouTube videos, developing his own style. The now songwriter had a burning desire to tell his story and he participated in the first Tuareg language film, a remake of Purple Rain.
The needs of Agadez are a major part of what drives Mdou as an artist and promoting the region’s youth through music is a personal cause. “I know what it’s like to have been in that position,” he says, “to not have the support of your family, or the money for guitars or strings, it’s really hard. I have a lot of support from the younger generation, because I help them out a lot. When I get back from tour, I give them gear that I bought while I was away so they can go out and form their own bands”.
In West Africa, news travels fast via mobile phone data cards, the reason why Mdou’s Afrique Victime, will not only be distributed in vinyl, CD and digital format but also as a limited cellphone edition. Hearkening back to the way Mdour‘s music originally spread and proliferated across the Sahara via word-of-mouth Bluetooth mobile phone swaps, this collector’s edition of Afrique Victime arrives pre-loaded onto a classic Nokia 6120 handset and specially mastered for it.
Through the combined efforts of Mdou and the members of the band, Afrique Victime comes to life: Rhythm guitarist and loyal collaborator Ahmoudou Madassane, who helped form the revolutionary first woman-fronted Tuareg guitar band Les Filles De Illighadad; drummer Souleymane Ibrahim, also a member of both the well-known Niger band, Sultanat Star De L’air and the longest running wedding band in Agadez; and producer and bassist Mikey Coltun who over the past three years has played over 500 shows on three continents as Mdou Moctar’s bassist, road manager, producer/recording engineer, and friend. Coltun recorded and produced Afrique Victime around the band’s travels in 2019 – working in studios, apartments, hotel rooms, venue backstages, and in field recordings in Niger.
Mdou’s sound imprint can be seen in the fusion of traditional Tuareg songs with drum machines and auto-tune that were popularised in neighbouring Nigeria at the time. Afrique Victime draws inspiration from the mid-’70s to early ’80s Van Halen meets Black Flag meets Black Uhuru, with the viciousness of Moctar’s electric guitar and the band’s hypnotic rhythm section