Mdou Moctar – ‘Afelan’ LP [Sahel Sounds]

Been more than a minute now since the Sahel Sounds release that properly moved us; Ali Ag Amoumine’s Takamba record was a discovery that almost sent me to the region it originated from (though to be fair I was in Morocco at the time anyway). Bringing out new instruments, rhythm patterns and an intensity that I’d not come across before, it was a semi-religious experience on first listen and a plate that I pull out for people more often than not to showcase why I still buy wax.

For the first time since Takamba Sahel Sounds have dropped recordings on us that relive the intensity and addictive exploration nature of West African folk music on to unconditioned ears. Mdou Moctar is a guitarist hailing from Niger, best known in his home continent for tracks shared digitally across cellphones, and even more locally as a wedding performer. Check the below video for an example of thim playing such celebrations.

As opposed to previous releases where auto-tuned vocals were the prominent feature that pushed them to a worldwide audience, I’m pleased to report Afelan is a more traditional affair vocally, not an autotune in sight. It’s instrumentally, however, where the ten Moctar played (and more often composed) tracks really blow our minds. The acoustic ballads over hand-drummed african rhythms allow the full emotion of Moctar’s writing and voice to come out across the record, in that style of tribal wailing you don’t get from non-indigenous music.

Flip to the live, raw and fuzzed out recordings of wedding celebrations and things kick-up notch. Mdou Moctar’s guitar stylings are unique to his own experiences and self-taught desert composition vibe. This is where you can start seeing rough comparisons to Mars Volta , Mark Fell or NHK, but done with one guitar and hand-drums. Not a lot of people we get exposed to play this hectic style live, and we’re definitely not listening to enough of these time signatures on our day-to-day record shop.

Big ups Christopher Kirkley, the man behind Sahel Sounds who continues to bring us recordings from all over the world. Kirkley’s got a crazy ear for quality sounds, the catalogue is definitely worth digging through.

Alefana is out now, available direct from Sahel Sounds or a variety of physical stores such as Honest Jon’s. Press release below, along with a bandcamp embed of the album.

via Sahel Sounds
Tuareg rock from Niger’s singer-songwriter Mdou Moctar. Tales of anguished love and broken hearts, plus some well known classics. Famous for his autotuned studio sessions popular on West African cellphones, here Mdou performs live. Recorded on location in Niger, electrifying, distorted and blown out guitar balances with sweet melodies of Saharan folk.