Mdou Moctar returns with the tour-de-force title track from his new album Afrique Victime, released May 21st on Matador Records.
“The wind born in Tunisia spread all over Arabia / Africa is a victim of so many crimes / If we stay silent it will be the end of us / Why is this happening?” sings Moctar on the heartfelt yet defiantly incandescent seven-and-a-half-minute rallying cry as it traverses mournful chanting, hypnotically propulsive groove and an interstellar coda of Moctar’s sky-bound guitar work. The accompanying video for the radio edit of the track was filmed in Niamey, the capital of Niger, where the band briefly convened in November for a set of impromptu performances.
Rolling rhythms and this imperative percussive lead momentum, consuming energy and this pure raw tone emitting from the captivating guitar notes that hook your attention.
Says Moctar: “’Afrique Victime’ is a message to all of the countries with money and power who come into Africa and kill the leaders who try to empower the people and lead revolutions. This pushes the area into danger and instability and emboldens the terrorists, and it’s the people who suffer and have no justice. Africa is innocent. The French use our uranium, but 90% of the people here don’t have electricity. Imagine.”
‘Afrique Victime’ follows first single ‘Tala Tannam’, which has enjoyed support across BBC 6 Music, Radio 2, NTS, Reprezent and Soho Radio. Last week, the band released a live rendition of the song. Watch HERE.
Moctar recently made a special guest appearance on Off White’s Imaginary TV channel, helmed by designer Virgil Abloh. Watch the solo performance HERE.
In addition to vinyl, CD, picture disk and digital formats, the album will be available as a special and limited cellphone edition. Hearkening back to the way Moctar’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. Pre-order HERE.
Afrique Victime sees the virtuoso Tuareg songwriter and musician boldly reforging contemporary Saharan music and “rock music” by melding guitar pyrotechnics, full-blast noise, and field recordings with poetic meditations on love, religion, women’s rights, inequality, and Western Africa’s exploitation at the hands of colonial powers.
Moctar hails from Agadez, a desert village in rural Niger. Inspired by traditional Tuareg melodies and YouTube videos of Eddie Van Halen’s six string techniques, he mastered the guitar and created his own burning style. A born charismatic, Mdou went on to tell his story as an aspiring artist by writing, producing, and starring in the first Tuareg language film: a remake of Purple Rain called Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai. The word and the sound travelled across West Africa via mobile phone data cards, a popular form of local music distribution. Grueling DIY world tours and albums on the independent US label Sahel Sounds followed, including 2019’s landmark Ilana: The Creator, which earned Mdou an ecstatic international audience.
Afrique Victime is result of the combined efforts of Mdou and the members of the band that shares his name: rhythm guitarist and longstanding 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.
Recording as a touring outfit forged a live wire new sound, and if Ilana was a late ’60s early ’70s ZZ Top and Black Sabbath record – Afrique Victime is mid-’70s to early ’80s Van Halen meets Black Flag meets Black Uhuru, with the ferocity of Moctar’s electric guitar and the band’s hypnotic rhythm section on awe-instilling form. Moctar also finds inspiration in highlighting lesser-known facets of the group: “While people have gotten to know Mdou Moctar as a rock band, there is a whole different set of music with this band done on acoustic guitars, which we wanted to incorporate into this album in order to go through a sonic journey,” he says. Mdou pays homage to one of his heroes Abdallah Ag Oumbadagou, the legendary Niger musician and political revolutionary, on songs “Habibti” and ‘Layla’. “Abdallah was a contemporary of Tinariwen and helped to pioneer the sound of Tuareg guitar music blended with drum machines and electronic sounds”.
The needs of Agadez are a major part of what drives Moctar as an artist and promoting the region’s youth through music is an especially 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.”
Says Coltun: “In Agadez the music and feeling at Tuareg weddings is exactly like the best of Western DIY/Punk shows. It’s loud, energetic and powerful. There is a sense of everyone helping out. Tuaregs are a tight community. If you’re Tuareg you’re considered family.”
The music listeners are the beneficiaries of the staggeringly powerful do-it-yourself musical ethic of Mdou Moctar – the man and the band – who’ve worked so hard to bring the spirits of families and communities in Niger to the West. Afrique Victime sounds and feels like a Tuareg hand reaching down from the sky, and we are very lucky for this chance to get lifted.
September 3rd – Bonnaroo Festival, Manchester, Tennessee, US
3. Ya Habibti
4. Tala Tannam
6. Asdikte Akal
8. Afrique Victime
9. Bismilahi Atagah