Mdou Moctar is an incredibly talented musician from a small village in Niger in a remote region that is steeped in religious tradition. Growing up in an area of the country where secular music was all but prohibited, he taught himself how to play guitar on a homemade instrument he constructed, which was basically a guitar cobbled together out of wood. It was years until he found the opportunity to play ‘real’ guitar, and was able to do that in secret, quietly and quickly becoming a star among the younger groups within the village. Surprisingly, his music slowly became accepted and respected among the religious leaders of his village, and that is when he got the opportunity to play freely, really making a name of himself beyond his village and country.
Years and years later, after mastering the Tuareg guitar, Mdou began working on his first few projects, traveling to Nigeria in the process and finding that creative freedom. With this new record titled Ilana: The Creator, the talented West-African musician dazzles with an electrifying display of incredibly intricate and explosive playing. The rhythms and melodies on this record are beautiful, as the traditional religious influences to his music are very present throughout the record. Almost Hendrix-like on shorter tracks like “Inizgam,” Mdou really feels free on this record with guitar-leads and melodies that are just beautiful and contain such soul. “Tarhatazed” is another highlight, with dense, fuzzy guitar playing and a free-spirited electrifying energy that just reverberates throughout the album. “Ilana” is another example of this, with vocals as well as Tuareg guitar leads that give out such gorgeous and upbeat energy.
Ilana: The Creator really is an incredible album which puts Mdou Moctar and Niger on the map of dense, energetic Saharan psychedelic music. It’s a beautiful album and one that needs to be played everywhere. Listen to Mdou Moctar’s phenomenal new album below via Bandcamp, and don’t forget to support! Released via Sahel Sounds.