The stylistic range of Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar runs as deep as the communal roots of his music | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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The stylistic range of Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar runs as deep as the communal roots of his music

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Mdou Moctar’s albums bring to mind the parable of the blind men and the elephant; taken individually, each one gives a misleading impression of the Nigerien artist’s full measure. His first recording, Anar (Sahel Sounds), is a cheap digital production with galloping drum loops and liberally auto-tuned vocals that would be the perfect soundtrack for a Mario Kart video game set in Northern Africa. Last year’s Sousoume Tamachek is a solo studio session, but Moctar’s imploring vocals, hand percussion, and rustic guitar picking affirm his music’s roots as communal entertainment for desert caravan stops and small-town picnics. And on his new download-only Mdou Moctar Meets Elite Beat in a Budget Dancehall (Boomarm Nation), his trebly electric-guitar leads thread a leisurely path through elastic reggae beats, wheezing organ, and rhythmically huffed flute. Moctar’s appearances at the Chicago World Music Festival last fall turned the flame up on the skirling, rock-edged sound he achieved on Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, his soundtrack for a retelling of Prince’s Purple Rain in Tamashek, the native tongue of the Tuareg people. Moctar and his current combo, which includes drummer Aboubacar Ibrahim Mazawadje, bassist Michael Coltun, and rhythm guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane, will have been on the road for a month before they get to Chicago; this time around they might burn even brighter.   v

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