Mdou Moctar (also known as M.dou Mouktar; born c. 1986) is a Tuareg songwriter and musician based in Agadez, Niger, and is one of the first musicians to perform modern electronic adaptations of Tuareg guitar music. He first became famous through a subtle trading network of cellphones and memory cards in West Africa.
Mdou Moctar is a popular wedding performer and sings about Islam, education, love and peace in Tamasheq. He plays a left-handed Fender in a takamba and assouf style. He is originally from Abalak and has also lived in Tchintabaraden and Libya.
His first album, Anar, was recorded in Sokoto, Nigeria in 2008 and prominently featured “spaced-out” autotuned vocals and the influence of Hausa music. The album was not officially released at the time but the songs became hugely popular across the Sahel when they went viral through cell-phone music trading networks. They reached a global audience when Sahel Sounds released his music on the Music from Saharan Cellphones: Volume 1 compilation. Two songs were covered with English homophone lyrics by Brainstorm, an American band from Portland, Oregon. Anar was released on vinyl in 2014 with a high price, due to “predatory business practices” from Sixt on Moctar’s first European tour.
His next album, Afelan, was recorded live in Tchintabaraden and features “rusty-edged jams and sun-weathered ballads”. The title track is named after a celebrated historical/folkloric hero of the Azawough of Western Niger. It contains a cover of “Chet Boghassa” by Tinariwen.
On his first realizations and interest of an audience outside of the Saharan region, Moctar said in late 2014: ““I first met (Christopher Kirkley of Sahel Sounds) on the mobile phone as he had called me … It was a weird conversation, as I thought my cousin was pulling a joke on me so I hung up. This American guy calling me, saying he wanted to work with me for my music, it just couldn’t be real. He called me again and we talked. He came to visit me in my village and also sent me a lefthanded guitar, which is very hard to find in Niger. This guitar has crossed several African countries to arrive in my hands, I have been playing it ever since!”
Moctar appeared in the short film I Sing the Desert Electric.
He also has the starring role in the 2015 film Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, which translates as “Rain the Color of Red with a Little Blue In It”. It tells the story of a musician from Agadez, who struggles with competing artists, a difficult home life, romantic problems and his own internal strife; whilst riding around the desert on a purple motorcycle. The film is an homage to Purple Rain and The Harder They Come; and is influenced by Moi, un noir, Jean Rouch, Italian neorealism and poverty row films. It is the world’s first feature film in a Tuareg language, specifically a mixture of dialects from Aïr and Azawagh. The soundtrack features music performed on set and at L’Embobineuse.
- Anar (2008)
- Afelan (2013)
- Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai OST (2015)
- Tahoultine (2011)
- Anar / Vanessa (2012) (split with Brainstorm)
- Music from Saharan Cellphones: Volume 1 (2010)
- Music For Saharan Cellphones: The International Reworks (2011)
- The Mdou Moctar Covers (2012) (split with Brainstorm)
- Pop Music From Republique Du Niger (2012)
- Music from Saharan Cellphones: Volume 2 (2013)
- Ronald Paris / Mdou Moctar (2014) (split cassette with Porches)
- Rough Trade Shops Africa 13 (2014)
- Mind The Gap #110 (2014)
- Below The Radar 10 (2014)