Mdou Moctar demonstrates why he’s one of today’s most exhilarating guitarists in new Fender Sessions set

Mdou Moctar
(Image credit: Fender/YouTube)

Fender has dropped the latest edition of its Fender Sessions series, for which it’s teamed up with none other than electric guitar wizard Mdou Moctar.

Moctar has become something of a household name in recent times. Last year, the Tuareg guitarist dropped his show-stopping album, Afrique Victime, and has since gone on to floor audiences with a series of mind-boggling live performances.

From an early morning set on the banks of the Niger River to an intimate Tiny Desk performance, Moctar’s recent rise has been stratospheric, and it’s all thanks to his distinct compositional and guitar playing prowess.

However, his latest live set might just be his best yet. It’s a bold statement, yes, but it’s not without merit. Simply put, the 22-minute session has it all. Dizzying displays of extended technique? Check. Gorgeous, gain-tinged guitar tones? Check. Prolonged passages of virtuosic improvisation? Double check.

Performing Afrique Victime's title track, along with Ya Habibti and Chismiten, Moctar bursts out the gates at break-neck speed, littering Afrique Victime with some overhand bends, rapid-fire scale licks and fingerpicking lines that he executes with elite precision.

For Ya Habibti, the six-string sorcerer wields a capo-equipped Fender Acoustasonic Telecaster – which he, unsurprisingly, plays with equal gusto – before reverting back to his Stratocaster for a rip-roaring finale.

In terms of both tone and technique it’s a guitarist's dream. You can check out Moctar’s performance in its entirety in the video above.

Afrique Victime is a politic [sic] sound,” Moctar said of his LP, “because a lot of stuff is happening in Africa right now, but not anyone in Europe and the United States knows about it. People have to understand what is going on in Africa."

Moctar also revealed his first-ever guitar wasn’t even really a guitar: just a DIY instrument fashioned from a piece of wood and bicycle brake cable. It was enough, however, to set him on his way towards becoming one of today's most accomplished and exhilarating guitarists.

“When I was young, one local artist from my hometown was my first concert. I saw him, and I saw the crowd was very happy. I just said, ‘I want to be like this person,’” Moctar concluded. “Music is my job, but the most important [thing] for me is to be free.”

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.