Ilana: The Creator

07/04/2019Tuareg Guitarist Mdou Moctar Releases First True Studio Album On Sahel Sounds

Over the past years, Saharan rock has become one of the African continent's biggest musical exports, due to the popularity of meanwhile world-renowned desert blues artists the likes of Bombino, Tinariwen and Mdou Moctar. The latter would appear to be "one of the most innovative artists in contemporary Saharan music" and has steadily been making a name for himself with "his unvonventional interpretations, original compositions and verbose poetry."  Master of the Tuareg guitar, Mdou Moctar was born in a small village in central Niger, where it was strictly forbidden to play foreign music. So he built his own wooden guitar and taught himself. 

"In 2008, Mdou traveled to Nigeria to record his debut album of spacey autotune, drum machine, and synthesizer. The album became a viral hit on the mp3 networks of West Africa, and was later released on the compilation 'Music from Saharan Cellphones.' In 2013, he released 'Afelan,' compiled from field recordings of his performances recorded in his village. Then he shifted gears, producing and starring the first Tuareg language film, a remake of Prince's 'Purple Rain.' Finally, in 2017, he created a solo folk album, 'Sousoume Tamachek,' a mellow blissed out recording evoking the calm desert soundscape. Without a band present, he played every instrument on the record." 

Now, Mdou Moctar returns to Christopher Kirkley's Sahel Sounds imprint to release his first actual studio album "Ilana: The Creator", accompanied by an all-star band, including Ahmoudou Madassane (Les Filles de Illighadad) on guitar, Aboubacar Mazawadje on drums and Michael Coltun on bass. The nine-track effort really stakes Mdou Moctar's claim as a relentless innovator in loud and shredding fashion, while remaining true to his sound. "I don't know what rock is exactly, I have no idea," he says. "I only know how to play in my style." Said style draws on modern and more traditional influences such as Tuareg folklore, hypnotic loops of takamba griots or vocal patterns from polyphonic nomad songs, all brought to frenetic fruition on his signature guitar. 

You can buy/stream "Ilana" via Bandcamp or watch Mdou Moctar's full 2018 for KEXP Seattle below.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom