Following last year's Ibitlan single, Tuareg songwriter Mdou Moctar and his left-handed Stratocaster return clutching a Matador Record contract and nine mesmerizing odes to his homeland. It's a gorgeous set, at times brimming with nostalgia while at others showcasing the kind of searing guitar riffs which slot nicely into the psych-rock revival of the past decade.
Hailing from Agadez, a desert village in rural Niger, the songwriter combined fan worship of Eddie Van Halen and the sounds of the Sahara into an intoxicating blend that has been captivating an increasing number of global ears. 'Afrique Victime' once more sees his frantic fingerwork tethered by Brooklyn bassist and producer Mikey Coltun and the driving drum work of Souleymane Ibrahim, arguably the band's secret weapon. Alongside long-time collaborator Ahmoudou Madassane's interplaying rhythm chops, the album's heavier cuts jump from full-bodied stomps to cosmic jams as Moctar's lead takes the songs skyward.
While the more Western indebted numbers are certainly accessibly groovy, they never quite reach the crude charm of some of the 60s worshiping acts working today - and that's no cause for concern. Mdou Moctar's DNA is too entwined with the harsh landscapes of home, the fills and flourishes too singular and arresting ever to replicate the dumber showboating of the 70s guitar groups this release took influence from. Elsewhere the band opt for gentler fare, 'Tala Tannam's mellow tale of romance being the crown jewel of this release, the quartet opting for an acoustic approach while letting the songs simple lyrics and melody repeat to hypnotic effect
The title track is another standout, Moctar mournfully declaring, "Africa is a victim of so many crimes, If we stay silent it will be the end of us" in a capella before the band drops the funkiest rhythm of the record. Over its seven-plus minutes, the song soulfully laments the injustices bore upon the African nations while never losing its propulsive groove and fire. It's political music with a sense of heart and yearning so often missing when artists try and convey 'a message.'
All good music transports the listener, and 'Afrique Victime' does that in spades while spreading a message of hope, resilience, and lessons on political inequality. No lyric best sums up Moctar's motivation and philosophy towards life than the lyrics “I love my homeland because it’s filled with people so dear to me” from Asdikte Akal. Here's a talent who, through sheer will, has managed to condense the sound of his culture, meld it to western rock and showcase it to the entire world. We can't wait to catch these melodies live.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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