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Mdou Moctar - Afrique Victime

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Afrique Victime

Mdou Moctar

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Rooted in the same issues that once inspired the American blues it's modeled on—poverty, corruption, conflict—West Africa's desert blues boom still has much to say, eloquently weighing in on both public disputes and personal struggles caused by assouf, which in the Tamashek language means loss, longing, homesickness, or "the pain that is not physical." By adding grooves and most importantly, the electric guitar, this maturing genre—percolating since the 1980s—from bands like Tinariwen, Imarhan, and Bombino, has made West Africa a source of fresh inspiration for electric blues rock and psychedelia (two forms of Western music in dire need of new energies). Mdou Moctar, (aka Mahamadou Souleymane)—deemed the "Hendrix of the Sahara,"—has become the latest performer to make the leap to Europe and the US. After a live album for Jack White's Third Man records in 2019, this studio album is a crucial step up in his rapidly rising career.

A remarkable collage of sound considering there are only four musicians, Afrique Victime has both ballads and upbeat numbers, all of it rhythmically vital and improvised around a core groove. The left-handed guitarist is supported throughout by his band of rhythm guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane (a star in his own right who has collaborated with Moctar since 2018), drummer Souleymane Ibrahim and American bassist/road manager Mikey Coltun who also produced this album which Matador is modestly calling, "Van Halen meets Black Flag meets Black Uhuru." Recorded while the band was on the road in Amsterdam and the US, the overall sound is reasonably clear and well-balanced and was mixed to give the band equal prominence to Moctar's guitar and singing. Nowhere near the equal of his guitarwork, his vocals in Tamashek are often doubled and tripled to make them sound like a chorus.

After setting the scene with the buzz of insects, a crowing rooster, and footsteps in gravel, opener "Chismiten" has Moctar singing, "To become a better person, you need to stop being so jealous and insecure," before ripping into a razor-edged electric guitar solo that's swirled with reverb and a slightly distorted tone. Muscular and original, this stirring statement leaves no doubt that this self-professed Eddie Van Halen fan has the requisite ideas and confidence to be a guitar hero.

Despite the album's title and the political bent of much of the music from this region, the songs on Afrique Victime are for the most part love songs. In the enchanting chords of the album's most fully realized tune "Tala Tannam" he sings, "I adore your eyes and body shape." In the acoustic guitar and hand claps-led "Ya Habibti" his "heart beats fast when I think of you." And while the humor may be unintentional—the product of a less than elegant Tamashek-to-English translation—the closer "Bismilahi Atagah," finds our hero weary from the battle of the sexes, declaring, "Love has become a painful boil in my life/ More painful than the sword of my enemy." A star on the rise, a guitar hero gently weeping. © Robert Baird/Qobuz

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Afrique Victime

Mdou Moctar

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1
Chismiten
00:04:58

Rob Schnapf, Engineer - Matt Schuessler, Engineer - Mdou Moctar, MainArtist - Seth Manchester, Mixer - Ahmoudou Madassane, Composer, AssociatedPerformer - Michael Coltun, Composer, Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Mahamadou Souleymane, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Souleymane Ibrahim, AssociatedPerformer

2021 Matador Records 2020 Matador Records

2
Taliat
00:03:48

Kasper Frenkel, Engineer - Mdou Moctar, MainArtist - Seth Manchester, Mixer - Ahmoudou Madassane, Composer, AssociatedPerformer - Michael Coltun, Composer, Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Mahamadou Souleymane, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Souleymane Ibrahim, AssociatedPerformer

2021 Matador Records 2021 Matador Records

3
Ya Habibti
00:03:31

Mdou Moctar, MainArtist - Seth Manchester, Mixer - Ahmoudou Madassane, Composer, AssociatedPerformer - Michael Coltun, Composer, Producer, Engineer, AssociatedPerformer - Mahamadou Souleymane, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Souleymane Ibrahim, AssociatedPerformer

2021 Matador Records 2021 Matador Records

4
Tala Tannam
00:05:38

Mdou Moctar, MainArtist - Seth Manchester, Mixer - Ahmoudou Madassane, Composer, AssociatedPerformer - Michael Coltun, Composer, Producer, Engineer, AssociatedPerformer - Mahamadou Souleymane, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Souleymane Ibrahim, AssociatedPerformer

2021 Matador Records 2021 Matador Records

5
Untitled
00:01:25

Mdou Moctar, MainArtist - Seth Manchester, Mixer - Ahmoudou Madassane, Composer, AssociatedPerformer - Michael Coltun, Composer, Producer, Engineer, AssociatedPerformer - Mahamadou Souleymane, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Souleymane Ibrahim, AssociatedPerformer

2021 Matador Records 2021 Matador Records

6
Asdikte Akal
00:04:31

Kasper Frenkel, Engineer - Mdou Moctar, MainArtist - Seth Manchester, Mixer - Ahmoudou Madassane, Composer, AssociatedPerformer - Michael Coltun, Composer, Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Mahamadou Souleymane, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Souleymane Ibrahim, AssociatedPerformer

2021 Matador Records 2021 Matador Records

7
Layla
00:04:26

Mdou Moctar, MainArtist - Seth Manchester, Mixer - Ahmoudou Madassane, Composer, AssociatedPerformer - Michael Coltun, Composer, Producer, Engineer, AssociatedPerformer - Mahamadou Souleymane, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Souleymane Ibrahim, AssociatedPerformer

2021 Matador Records 2021 Matador Records

8
Afrique Victime
00:07:25

Rob Schnapf, Engineer - Matt Schuessler, Engineer - Mdou Moctar, MainArtist - Seth Manchester, Mixer - Ahmoudou Madassane, Composer, AssociatedPerformer - Michael Coltun, Composer, Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Mahamadou Souleymane, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Souleymane Ibrahim, AssociatedPerformer

2021 Matador Records 2021 Matador Records

9
Bismilahi Atagah
00:05:36

Mdou Moctar, MainArtist - Seth Manchester, Mixer - Ahmoudou Madassane, Composer, AssociatedPerformer - Michael Coltun, Composer, Producer, AssociatedPerformer - Mahamadou Souleymane, AssociatedPerformer, ComposerLyricist - Souleymane Ibrahim, AssociatedPerformer - Kahlil Smylie, Engineer

2021 Matador Records 2021 Matador Records

Album Description

Rooted in the same issues that once inspired the American blues it's modeled on—poverty, corruption, conflict—West Africa's desert blues boom still has much to say, eloquently weighing in on both public disputes and personal struggles caused by assouf, which in the Tamashek language means loss, longing, homesickness, or "the pain that is not physical." By adding grooves and most importantly, the electric guitar, this maturing genre—percolating since the 1980s—from bands like Tinariwen, Imarhan, and Bombino, has made West Africa a source of fresh inspiration for electric blues rock and psychedelia (two forms of Western music in dire need of new energies). Mdou Moctar, (aka Mahamadou Souleymane)—deemed the "Hendrix of the Sahara,"—has become the latest performer to make the leap to Europe and the US. After a live album for Jack White's Third Man records in 2019, this studio album is a crucial step up in his rapidly rising career.

A remarkable collage of sound considering there are only four musicians, Afrique Victime has both ballads and upbeat numbers, all of it rhythmically vital and improvised around a core groove. The left-handed guitarist is supported throughout by his band of rhythm guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane (a star in his own right who has collaborated with Moctar since 2018), drummer Souleymane Ibrahim and American bassist/road manager Mikey Coltun who also produced this album which Matador is modestly calling, "Van Halen meets Black Flag meets Black Uhuru." Recorded while the band was on the road in Amsterdam and the US, the overall sound is reasonably clear and well-balanced and was mixed to give the band equal prominence to Moctar's guitar and singing. Nowhere near the equal of his guitarwork, his vocals in Tamashek are often doubled and tripled to make them sound like a chorus.

After setting the scene with the buzz of insects, a crowing rooster, and footsteps in gravel, opener "Chismiten" has Moctar singing, "To become a better person, you need to stop being so jealous and insecure," before ripping into a razor-edged electric guitar solo that's swirled with reverb and a slightly distorted tone. Muscular and original, this stirring statement leaves no doubt that this self-professed Eddie Van Halen fan has the requisite ideas and confidence to be a guitar hero.

Despite the album's title and the political bent of much of the music from this region, the songs on Afrique Victime are for the most part love songs. In the enchanting chords of the album's most fully realized tune "Tala Tannam" he sings, "I adore your eyes and body shape." In the acoustic guitar and hand claps-led "Ya Habibti" his "heart beats fast when I think of you." And while the humor may be unintentional—the product of a less than elegant Tamashek-to-English translation—the closer "Bismilahi Atagah," finds our hero weary from the battle of the sexes, declaring, "Love has become a painful boil in my life/ More painful than the sword of my enemy." A star on the rise, a guitar hero gently weeping. © Robert Baird/Qobuz

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