Mdou Moctar

A new album by pioneering Nigerien songwriter Mdou Moctar will be released later this week in the UK. The Tuareg musician, who mastered the left-handed guitar after learning to play on a self-crafted instrument made from bicycle wires and wood, has been labelled the “Hendrix of the Sahara” since his emergence via tastemaker label Sahel Sounds. ‘Afrique Victime’ represents a major breakthrough; it is Moctar’s first record to be released via Matador.

Having popularised the music of the nomadic Tuareg people on previous records by combining traditional, guitar-based songcraft with drum machines and auto-tune, Moctar pushes boundaries even further on ‘Afrique Victime’. The title track embodies strong political themes relating to the exploitation of Niger by colonial countries, while other tracks promote women’s rights and young African musicians. Yet it is the guitarist’s fusion of Saharan “desert blues” with the sounds of acts like Black Flag and Black Uhuru that represents his most enduring musical innovation.

The record also pays homage to an innovative means of distribution that has characterised Western Africa in the 21st century. Since 2008, Moctar’s popularity was spurred via the trading of mobile phone data cards and through Bluetooth transfers; since personal computers were a rare luxury at the time, handheld devices the de facto means of music consumption. A limited-edition version of ‘Afrique Victime’ will be released in the US in the form of a Nokia 6120 handset — with the album pre-loaded and specially mastered for the device.

‘Afrique Victime’ will be released via Matador Records on 21st May, 2021.