Mdou Moctar

Moctar was born in Abalak, northern Niger. He began singing and playing the Tamasheq Tuareg language at weddings. His first album Anar, which he composed for a lost lover, was recorded in Nigeria in 2008. It featured Moctar’s raw, unpolished sound and haunting lyrics. This style is known locally as “assouf”, but it does not translate well, but is reminiscent of desert blues. Anar was not released. Instead, it was spread via Bluetooth swaps between mobile data cards. One of the album tracks, Tahoultine was featured on Music from Saharan Cellphones in 2011. Christopher Kirkley, creator of Sahel Sounds, compiled it. He made it his personal mission to find nomadic Moctar. Kirkley made Moctar the star in a tribute to Prince’s Purple Rain rock opera. The film was released in 2015 and is called Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai Rain the Colour of blue with a little red in it. The story tells of an Agadez musician who battles with rivals while riding through the desert in a purple motorcycle. Moctar has released a new album called Ilana. It is a tribute to the Creator. The sound has been refined by the electric guitar to be more soulful and sophisticated. Western influences can be heard in complex riffs, and the greater use of the bass without overpowering the traditional feel. The album’s lyrics include everything from love songs to criticisms of French-owned Nigeria industry. He has been vocal in his criticism of France’s influence over its former colony which was independent in 1960. He says that France has been exploiting the uranium within our country for 48 years, but we don’t have roads or medicines, nor electricity, and many areas are without water and electricity. France claims we are now independent, but we don’t have independence. We are modern slaves. They claim this is an Africa problem. But we are fed up with what France is doing. Moctar insists that he is helping his country by building a school and a health clinic in his village. Religious leaders were skeptical of Moctar’s music but they have been converted by his songs of respect, honour, and tradition. “I am religious but I don’t think being a Muslim stops me from being an artist. Music isn’t criminal. Music is a way to satisfy people. It also helps people. That’s something that counts. His mother doesn’t doubt his choice of career. She now believes that I am a person who is good. I don’t drink or do drugs and I don’t vex others. “She is happy with me, so I am happy.”

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