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In the crowded scene of Tuareg guitarists, Mdou Moctar stands apart from his peers. Playing in the repertoire of desert guitar popularized by groups like Tinariwen and Bombino, Mdou is pushing the boundaries of the genre with a unique personal sound. With versatile compositions and genre defying albums, Mdou’s music has been an underground success with an international following, set on redefining the sound of the desert.
Mdou Moctar hails from a small village in the Azawagh desert of Niger, a remote region steeped in religious tradition. As a child, he taught himself to play the a homemade guitars, cobbled together out of planks of wood. It was years later before he found a “real” guitar, teaching himself in secret. In an area where guitar music was all but prohibited, he quickly rose to the status of local celebrity amongst the village youth.
In the past years, Tuareg rock music has gotten faster. There is a preference for this new style, both in the raucous weddings of Agadez and in Berlin rock clubs. The wavering guitar solos, rapid fire drums and heavy distortion has become characteristic of the contemporary sound. Mdou takes on this challenge, but with an ear towards tradition. Rooted in traditional, with borrowed polyrhythms of traditional « takamba » and lyrics sung in the style of old nomadic poets, his guitar playing is wild and unrelenting, equal parts nomadic bard and Eddie Van Halen. Mdou Moctar and his band have toured Europe and North America, playing sold out shows from small DIY rock clubs in Portland to New York City’s Lincoln Center. His music has been featured in the BBC, The Guardian, Pitchfork, New Yorker, L.A. Weekly, NPR, Rolling Stone, Les Inrocks, and his film continues to be screened at film festivals around the world. From underground star of Niger to international film star, Mdou Moctar has undoubtedly one of the quickest rises to success.