It’s not every day you stumble upon an album rooted in contemporary Saharan music with flourishes of the late Eddie Van Halen’s distinct guitar-noodling. The excellent sixth LP from revered Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Mdou Moctar – the moniker of Mahamadou Souleymane – harmoniously marries these contrasting tonal sensibilities, presenting an irresistible and enveloping body of work.
Underpinned by universal themes such as love (‘Tala Tannam’), self-worth (‘Chismiten’) and national pride, the beating heart of Mdou Moctar’s music is community. “I love my homeland because it’s filled with people so dear to me,” goes a line from the densely textured ‘Asdikte Akal’. Reared in rural Niger, an early exposure to the work of Abdallah Ag Oumbadagou, a pioneer of the Tuareg style, inspired Moctar to build a guitar of his own and write music. Over time, he gained notoriety from a combination of constant performing, widespread distribution of his music via mobile phone data cards and recurring stints as a wedding performer. With this, there’s an innate DIY and communal spirit permeating his arrangements.
From the album artwork to the loose production style that captures the raw sparkle of the instrumentation, there’s an undeniable timelessness to Afrique Victime. Sonically, the impact of these vast arrangements is immediate. Sprinkled with unrelenting spiked electric guitar solos, thumping percussion, gorgeous harmonies and field recordings, it’s impossible to resist the magic created by this accomplished band. These kaleidoscopic compositions, both tender and tenacious in tone, are inspiring and rejuvenating.
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