Mdou Moctar: Ilana; The Creator (Sahel Sounds)

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Asshet Akal
Mdou Moctar: Ilana; The Creator (Sahel Sounds)

These days with so many artists trickling out singles and then maybe an album every few years, this Tuareg singer/guitarist from Niger has an admirable work ethic.

Although this is his first studio album he's clocked off a handful of live album including the soundtrack to a movie he was in which paid homage to Prince's Purple Rain and Perry Henzell's struggling central character Ivan (played by Jimmy Cliff) in Harder They Come.

And while he works with many of the familiar elements of desert blues in the manner of Etran Finatawa, Tinariwen and others (chant-style call'n'response vocals, mercurial guitar lines), by being younger and belatedly more influenced by Western rock (as are Tamikrest) this comes off as heavier and much more urgent.

And right from his debut album in 2008 he's always enjoyed the technology available, so here we get the full sonic palette from Moctar and his small band recorded in the Detroit studio.

It's not a stretch to hear the trickle-down of Hendrix and power trios in the scouring Asshet Akal, the sky-crying on the tantalising 90 second fragment Inizgam and especially on the seven and half minute Tarhatazed which sounds a bit like Eddie Van Halen working up his chops before the pounding rhythm section arrives and we are off on a furious psychedelic desert-rock journey.

To fully appreciate the messages here (some political, inevitably) you need to get the CD or vinyl, but if the loose description of the fiery contents here tempt you then find a stream and rack it up loud . . . all the way to the easy roll of the measured ballad Tumastin at the end of these pretty remarkable 40 minutes.

It's like going out on twilight surf music after the afternoon storm.

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Graham - May 7, 2019

He seems to tour incessantly, so far only in the northern hemisphere, maybe Womad will pick up on him. His recent live album at Jack White's studio (out on Third Man Records) is pretty cool too.

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