“When I was very young I didn’t have access to Western music. In 2016, I was first introduced to Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix”: Mdou Moctar is one of Africa’s premier guitar heroes – and he’s using his Stratocaster to spark a revolution

Mdou Moctar performs at the Gobi Tent during the 2024 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival at Empire Polo Club on April 14, 2024 in Indio, California.
(Image credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

Back in the ’60s, the template for a protest singer was set as an earnest fingerstyle folkie, regaling a cross-legged audience in a Greenwich Village coffee house. 5,000 miles away, and a half-century later, Mdou Moctar didn’t get the memo (in fact, as the African guitarist tells us today, almost no Western media whatsoever made it to his childhood city of Arlit, Niger).

As such, seventh album, Funeral For Justice, finds him chronicling the travails of his devastated nation with a fiery, feedback-soaked Stratocaster, revving up the musical traditions of his Tuareg ancestry and, critically, making audiences dance like there’s no tomorrow… 

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Henry Yates

Henry Yates is a freelance journalist who has written about music for titles including The Guardian, Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a talking head on Times Radio and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl and many more. As a guitarist with three decades' experience, he mostly plays a Fender Telecaster and Gibson Les Paul.