Socialist Worker

Mdou Moctar’s Afrique Victime is an exciting and psychedelic album of Desert Blues

by Mataio Dean
Issue No. 2756

Mdou Moctar

Mdou Moctar (Pic: fabonthemoon/creative commons)


Afrique Victime is a rallying cry against imperialism past and present. From the virtuosic guitarist, singer, and songwriter Mdou Moctar comes this musical and political tour de force.

It uses the wild textures and melodies of desert blues to launch anti‑colonialist discussions of African histories and futures. Following in the footsteps of the great Ali Farka Toure and fellow Taureg musicians Tinariwen, Moctar takes desert blues to an exciting and psychedelic new place.

The nomadic Taureg people of the Sahara Desert have been subjected to brutal French colonialism which they fought in multiple rebellions.

The creation of modern African states such as Niger, Mali, and Libya, carved up their traditional land, making them an ethnic minority. 

The genre of desert blues arose against a backdrop of exploitation and anti-colonial resistance. It resulted in a pan-African mixing of traditional Taureg melodies and rhythms with the psychedelic sounds of 1960s African American electric blues.

Tinariwen interview: Soul rebels of the North African desert
Tinariwen interview: Soul rebels of the North African desert
  Read More

In the album’s title track, Moctar takes this history of exploitation, and colonial oppression, and creates a cry for liberation.

“Africa is the victim of so many crimes, if we stay silent it will be the end of us,” he sings.

The song opens with Moctar’s psychedelic Hendrix-stlye lead guitar followed by his bold, unaccompanied vocals. Then it launches into a full rock band groove, complete with driving bass and drums, a soaring melody and screeching electric guitar interludes. In contrast, the gentle love song Tala Tannam uses complex and delicate acoustic lead guitar and massed voices to create a sense of peace.

Other songs promote women’s liberation, Taureg culture, and appreciation of the natural world and the desert landscape, which he venerates in the upbeat track Asdikte Akal.

All these elements come together to make this a compelling and radical new album.

Afrique Victime by Mdou Moctar is out now


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