Mdou Moctar plays the world’s greatest anti-imperialist desert psychedelic guitar | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Mdou Moctar plays the world’s greatest anti-imperialist desert psychedelic guitar


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“If we stay silent, it will be the end of us,” Mdou Moctar sings in French on the title track of his new album, Afrique Victime (Matador). If there’s one thing you can say for sure about Moctar, it’s that he’s not silent. The Nigerien guitarist keeps one hand on the tradition of Saharan Tuareg blues that Tinariwen made internationally famous and runs the other frantically over the fretboard of psychedelic rock. On Afrique Victime, he travels further into the land of Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Hazel as he thunderously addresses the injustices inflicted on his homeland. The title track is a seven-minute tour de force that laments the history of French colonial brutality with a pyrotechnic blast of resistance, including a guitar solo that touches on Van Halen’s manic runs before squalling into Sonic Youth-style feedback, rage, and transcendence. “Chismiten” stays more grounded in Tuareg music; it sounds like a Tinariwen track sped up enough to break land-speed records, and its video, which features footage of Niger’s markets and mosques, comes off as a defiant celebration. To provide breathers between the electric-guitar freak-outs, Moctar performs breathtaking acoustic numbers; the rhythmic, driving blues of “Layla” could make a juke-joint jump and Son House moan. Like his musical heroes—whether they’re from the Mississippi Delta or the Sahara Desert—Moctar uses his guitar to twist pain into defiance and joy. Afrique Victime is the sound of the colonized rising up to take over the world, and doing it loudly.   v

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