“I would need to show you exactly how to tune your guitar. Even at home, some people have trouble. Young guitarists tell me that regularly”: Mdou Moctar has ignored all of guitar’s standards – and become one of the world’s finest players in the process

Mdou Moctar live onstage at Bonnaroo with his white Fender Stratocaster
(Image credit: Gary Miller/WireImage)

Hailing from the desert city of Agadez in Niger, Mdou Moctar is a genuine trailblazer. With a sound that bridges the ancient traditions of the Sahara and the electrifying energy of modern rock, his journey as a musician is a tale of evolution and experimentation, a relentless pursuit of new sonic frontiers. And yet, for all his open-mindedness as an artist, he believes that the key to creating original music is to shut himself off from the world.

“I still focus on my own work rather than getting inspiration from other guitarists,” he tells Total Guitar, speaking in French through an interpreter. “I even take long breaks from playing guitar to let something new germinate.”

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