Mdou Moctar “Afrique Victime”
Best song: Bismilahi Atagah
A great record. Stay away from it if you don’t stand Psychedelia or African music. Or if you have pressing deadlines at work.
Tishoumaren, they call it. Also Desert Blues, electric guitar-led North African music, emerging from traditional Tuareg Music.
And it feels like floating above deserts, between nuances of an eternal yesterday and the strict actuality of nowadays.
Tuareg music is a widespread style of Amazigh music, the music of the indigenous people of Northwest Africa. Those called Berbers until the term was found derogatory due to its origin in the Arabic word for barbaric.
It first includes traditional genres such as poems-based chants, women’s and elders songs. When this popular genres are played with electric guitars, we have Tishoumaren. Essentially the contemporaneization of the musical structures that were the progenitors of the genre itself.
Add then the energetic, passionate, hypnotic and uplifting psychedelic touch of Mdou Moctar, a Tuareg born in Niger. Shake it all with the often political nature of his writing, singing in Tamasheq or French about issues that affect his people.
And you have a jewel.
His style of psychedelia is based on simple riffs and heavy repetition, sort of Hendrix mixed with techniques of Tuareg tradition. He uses just his index finger to play the strings, therefore he uses predominantly the fretboard to control the sound, coming to a total, colorful, command over the guitar.
Lyrics are about difficulties of living in Niger, the long history of injustice which led to almost chronic social unrest.
Afrique Victime has then a denser, rawer and more somber heart than it appears to superficial listening. But Mdou Moctar is confident in the possibility of a change, and sings it to reach new people, new consciences and bring the message to the new generations. And we do appreciate, a whole lot.