Watch Mdou Moctar’s intimately epic Tiny Desk concert

Mdou Moctar Tiny Desk performance
(Image credit: NPR Music)

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.

Despite wielding an acoustic guitar for much of the set, Moctar recently sat down with Guitar World to discuss why he usually favors the Strat above all else.

“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.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

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.