Mdou Moctar is ready to rock | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Music » Concert Preview

Mdou Moctar is ready to rock


1 comment

The story of Mdou Moctar’s early years reads like show-business boilerplate. Growing up in a conservative rural town in central Niger, he had neither money nor parental permission to buy a guitar, so he scavenged items such as bits of wood and bicycle brake cables until he had enough parts to build his own. Moctar had to leave town to make his debut recording, and though it didn’t even get a proper release, the Auto-tune-soaked song “Tahoultine” became a regional hit as people across the Sahel swapped it from cell phone to cell phone. That’s how Christopher Kirkley, the American proprietor of the U.S.-based Sahel Sounds label, first heard his music. Nowadays Moctar tours the world and has several albums under his belt—five of them on Sahel Sounds—and he isn’t playing brake cables or computerized effects anymore. Every one of his records is different from the last, and the newest, Ilana: The Creator, elaborates upon the incendiary live sound that Moctar has brought to international stages over the past couple years. It was recorded in Detroit last year with Moctar’s touring band, which includes drummer Souleymane Ibrahim, bassist Mikey Coltun, and rhythm guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane (a recording artist in his own right, whose soundtrack for the movie Zerzura sounds like a Tuareg riposte to Neil Young’s work on Dead Man). Their grooves drive Moctar’s dry, earnest singing at a clip that leaves the earlier generation of African desert guitarists, such as Ali Farka Touré and the members of Tinariwen, in the dust—and Moctar himself has turned into an unabashed shredder of a lead guitarist.   v

Get our free weekly Early Warnings newsletter 💌

It’s Chicago’s essential months-ahead music calendar straight to your inbox.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →