Blog April 3, 2020
Quarantunes: It's Mdou Moctar Time

Look, I've been saving this one, keeping in my pocket for just the right moment, and as we stare down another Friday night in, with news reports telling us that the worst is happening and that the peak is still on its way, it's time we break the glass and watch this Mdou Moctar performance.

I feel like Mdou Moctar's music really speaks for itself, but as a quick rundown, he's the tall Tuareg guitarist in the center there, from Agadez, Niger, in the Sahara. It's a fairly large town today, still a crossroads. founded as a Tuareg city, conquered as part of the Songhai Empire, and music from there can have an affiliation with Malian music as much as it does with other Tuareg groups. Moctar started teaching himself guitar in secret, and started playing for weddings in a style that subbed in electric guitar for the lute-like ngoni in traditional takamba. The drums and bass replace the calabash but that distinctive swaying 6/8 rhythm anchors the listener in a constant, hypnotic undercurrent from which Moctar's solos flicker up.

KEXP, a station in Seattle, does these great videos of concerts that both sound and look fantastic, in this studio and also in a church in Rennes, France, and I love the little interlude and questions here, hearing about how all the kids in Agadez are learning the guitar and how back home they'd just play for weddings and afternoon teas.

Mdou Moctar was all set to play a sold-out show at Sultan Room at Turk's Inn in Brooklyn this month, but the show has now been postponed to September. There are tough weeks and months to cross until then, but I'm looking forward to packing in there.

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