It’s been quite a year for Mdou Moctar, who, after a string of singles, recently released his fifth full-length album Afrique Victime – a sonic tour-de-force that puts on a pedestal his own celebrated blend of Saharan music and conventional rock.
To mark the occasion, Moctar made an appearance on NPR Music for an epic at-home Tiny Desk performance, which offers an intimate insight into his pioneering approach to songwriting and fierce, face-melting guitar techniques.
In the 16-minute-set, we're treated to every mind-bending compositional and stylistic six-string trick Moctar has up his sleeve, with the dizzying hammer-on and pull-off lines and vocal melodies of Ya Habititi – executed simultaneously with pinpoint accuracy – appearing in full force.
Before the video hits the halfway mark, Moctar’s masterfully hypnotic and intricately crafted Tala Tannam continues the Tuareg guitarist’s fine form, serving up a series of trademark rapid-fire finger-picking passages and elite rhythmic pickups.
The grand finale, an electric live rendition of the epic Afrique Victime, serves as a succinct six-string summary of why Moctar is considered the formidable force he is today – irresistible grooves, flawless playing and a catalog of I’ve-never-heard-that-one-before guitar soundbites that only Moctar himself could compose.
“I really like the Stratocaster sound,” he revealed. “Whatever sound I need, I can have it in that guitar.”
Before becoming accustomed to Fender’s fine-tuned engineering, however, Moctar had to make do with a creation of his own, revealing his first-ever six-string wasn’t a six-string at all, but a make-shift four-string instrument he built himself.
“I did not know what I was going to do,” said Moctar. “So, I just built my guitar by myself. I took some wood and I made a guitar. But it was just one part – it was not a real guitar.
“Then I took the cable from the brakes for a bicycle. I, like, took the small, small cable and made it into a string. My first guitar had four strings. That helped me a lot in the beginning.”
Mdou Moctar's Afrique Victime is available now via Bandcamp.