Skip to main content

Watch Mdou Moctar play a stunning early morning set on the banks of the Niger River

Mdou Moctar and his band perform on the banks of the Niger river
(Image credit: Mdou Moctar/YouTube)

Back in June, Mdou Moctar released one of the year's best concert films, an exhilarating document of a spontaneous performance with his band outside the home of a friend on the outskirts of Niamey, the capital of Moctar's native Niger.

Now, the guitar wizard has released another, perhaps even more astonishing, live video, which documents an early-morning performance on the banks of the Niger River.

With his band – Mikey Coltun on bass, Souleymane Ibrahim on drums and Ahmoudou Madassane on rhythm guitar – in tow, Moctar runs through four standout cuts from his masterful 2021 album, Afrique Victime, as the sun rises behind him.

It's as entrancing a live document as we've watched in awhile, and you can check it out below.

In a statement, Coltun relayed the story of the performance: “A friend of ours had taken us to a place on the outskirts of Niamey, 'In the bush.' This land was right on the Niger River – a river flowing through Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria. 

"Brainstorming different locations for filming, we came up with the idea to film a few songs at this location as the sun was coming up one morning. On the night before I departed Niger, we played a late concert, loaded everything into Mdou's car, packed in there all together, and dropped off the gear to the location about 30 minutes away. Mdou decided to sleep on location with the gear so none of it gets stolen. 

"The rest of us woke up the next morning at 4 am, got into the car, picked up breakfast at a bakery, and drove to the location. We set up quickly as we didn't want to lose filming the sun coming up. We made a fire to keep us warm and also to keep the Tuareg tea brewing while we played. 

"As we started playing Tala Tannam the sun came up and the two-colored Saharan bird, the pied crow, the symbol for Mdou Moctar, flew above us. Midway through the session we were greeted by a pack of goats coming towards us from who knows where. They stopped and listened for a bit. Totally spontaneous, as things usually are for the Mdou Moctar group. This session proved to be one of the most beautiful performances we've played together."

Mdou Moctar (second from right) performs with his band on the banks of the Niger River

(Image credit: Mdou Moctar/YouTube)

In a recent interview with Guitar World, Moctar explained how the natural landscapes of his home country, particularly the desert, inspire his music and guitar playing.

“The sky and the stars, that inspires you when you want to write something or when you need to play,” he said. “It is like you are free. It’s a feeling of being free to do whatever you need to do. The wind, too, is great, to have that through the song at night is something very spiritual. I love the desert because it is so quiet. It’s empty.

“There is no sound for miles. Not one person, not one car. Nothing. Everything is quiet and you can do whatever – you can just live for yourself. There is nothing to interrupt you. Then, at night, you are going to have that sky, so many stars, and it’s so dark, and then the wind… It’s great. Yeah, the feeling is fucking amazing.”

Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at guitarworld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.