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Mdou Moctar — Afrique Victime
(Matador OLE1614, 2021, CD / DL)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2021-09-18

Afrique Victime Cover art

It doesn’t take more than around 30 seconds into the first track — the unusual effected guitar introduction, even before the rest of the band comes in or before the singing starts — to realize that this is something very unusual, not borne of any European or Western stylings, far off the beaten path. Then the drums and bass enter the picture with a trippy rhythm, and then the vocals of “Chismiten” begin, a declaratory statement that this powerful and unusual rock sound is African in origin. Mdou Moctar is Mahamadou Souleymane, guitarist and bandleader from from Tchintabaraden and Abalak, Republic of Niger, who performs a modern adaptation of Touareg guitar music; his first album, Anar, was recorded in 2008 and received a proper release in 2014, and around the time of his next album, Afelan, he became aware of the international interest in his music. Some six or so albums later, having toured Europe, he is now touring the USA in 2021. On Afrique Victime, he plays lead guitar and sings lead, with Ahmoudou Madassane on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Michael Coltun playing bass guitar, drum machine and backing vocals, and drummer Souleymane Ibrahim, who also shares backing vocals. Next up is “Taliat,” a minute shorter but definitely another barn-burner graced by some positively amazing guitar work. Taking a more acoustic approach, “Ya Habibti (My Love)” maintains the interesting rhythm and vocals, and while it should be mentioned the lyrics (save one quick instrumental) are in Souleymane’s language, all the lyrics in the booklet are translated into English — good for understanding what the songs are about, though not so helpful if one wants to follow along. What we have are poetic meditations on love, religion, historical colonial exploitation (the title track) and more. It isn’t until the fourth cut “Tala Tannam” that we come to a more gentle, beautiful, and seemingly spiritual tune, but it too is a love song, blessed with great vocal harmonies in a uniquely African style. Afrique Victime contains nine tracks in all, making for an intensely powerful listening experience like no other.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Mdou Moctar

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