It takes a lot of determination to go against the grain of ancient religious traditions, but for Nigerian artist Mahamadou Souleymane, a.k.a Mdou Moctar, this is exactly what he had to do in order to follow his musical calling. Growing up in a small and remote village in central Niger where anything but religious music was all but prohibited, Mdou Moctar had an affiliation to music from a young age. Teaching himself to play on a homemade guitar he had created out of wood, it was to be years later that he would acquire a ‘real’ guitar. This didn’t stop him from practising and teaching himself in secret, however, and once he had honed his seemingly natural talents, Moctar began to win over local religious leaders with his songs of respect, honour and tradition.
Now known as one of the most innovative artists in contemporary Saharan music, his unusual interpretations of Tuareg guitar have earned him a prominent place in what has become a very crowded scene. Mdou’s style draws on both modern and traditional sources, allowing the origins of this sound to echo through his many compositions where he frequently draws upon Tuareg folklore for inspiration. His guitar sound defines him and his desire to get people up and dancing is something he has always aspired to do ever since he began as a musician playing at weddings: “It’s important to me to make people dance and [be] happy, and the more energy we can create while playing, the more people dance, the more people dance, the more money the musicians make.”
This would definitely explain why the press release for his latest album Ilana:The Creatordescribes some of the music as “raw wedding burners.” Released in Spring 2019, Ilana is lively and inspiriting, paying homage to ancient traditions through heartfelt melodies, whilst the freshness of Saharan Blues comes alive in uplifting rhythms and complex guitar lines. Opening track Kamane Tarhanin is warm and engaging, bursting with a raw blues energy as willowy guitar riffs entwine perfectly around hypnotic rhythms as ancient sounds echo through modern instrumentation. It’s a great track and a great album!
Listen/purchase it from here and check out a live performance of today’s song below!