Mdou Moctar

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Mdou Moctar
Mdou Moctar Milhões de Festa 2014.jpg
Background information
Birth nameMahamadou Souleymane
Also known asM.dou Mouktar
Bornc. 16 August 1984-1986
Tchintabaraden, Niger
Instrument(s)guitar, vocals, synth
Years active2008–present
LabelsSahel Sounds, Stone Tapes, Matador Records

Mahamadou Souleymane (born c. 16 August 1984[1] or 1986[2]),[1] known professionally as Mdou Moctar (also M.dou Mouktar), is a Tuareg songwriter and musician based in Agadez, Niger, who performs modern rock music inspired by Tuareg guitar music. His music first gained attention through a trading network of mobile phones and memory cards in West Africa.[3] He sings in the Tamasheq language.[4] Moctar's fourth album, Ilana: The Creator, released in 2019, was the first to feature a full band. He plays guitar in the takamba and assouf styles.[4]


Mdou Moctar at the 2022 Pori Jazz festival in Pori, Finland.

Mdou Moctar was born in the Nigerien village of Tchintabaraden, and then grew up in Arlit, a mining town.[5] After listening to artists such as Abdallah Oumbadougou he wanted to play the guitar, but his family disapproved of electric music,[6] so he had to build his own guitar using bicycle cables for strings.[5]

His first album, Anar, was recorded in Sokoto, Nigeria, in 2008 and prominently featured autotuned vocals and influences from Hausa music.[4][7][8] The album was not officially released at the time but the songs became popular across the Sahel when they went viral through mobile phone music trading networks.[9][10] Some of the songs reached a global audience when Sahel Sounds released them on the Music from Saharan Cellphones: Volume 1 compilation.[5] 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.[11]

His next album, Afelan, was recorded live in Tchintabaraden and features "rusty-edged jams and sun-weathered ballads".[12] The title track is named after a celebrated historical/folkloric hero of the Azawough of Western Niger.[13] It contains a cover of "Chet Boghassa" by Tinariwen. Moctar became aware of international interest in his music in 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!"[14]

Moctar released his fifth studio album Ilana (The Creator) in 2019; it was his first studio album recorded with a full band.[15] NPR's Bob Boilen named the album "perhaps the most fiery psych-rock of the 21st century"[16] while Happy Mag placed it at no.13 on their list of "The 25 best psychedelic rock albums of the 2010s", labelling it "serious music for a serious cause."[17] Moctar's sixth album, Afrique Victime, was released via Matador Records on 21 May 2021.[18] The album received positive reviews from international publications including Rolling Stone,[19] Paste,[20] Pitchfork,[21] and The Guardian.[22]

International Tours[edit]

During February and March of 2022, Mdou Moctar was touring with sixteen dates as the opening act for Brooklyn-based indie rock band Parquet Courts' North American Tour.[23] Moctar also had eight headlining shows added to the beginning and end of this tour, which would be followed up by headlining a spring 2022 European tour.[23] The Irish leg of the tour was cancelled due to visa issues


Moctar appeared in the short film I Sing the Desert Electric in 2013.[24] He also had the starring role in the 2015 film Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red In It).[25] The soundtrack features music performed on set and at L'Embobineuse.[26] In 2022, Moctar appeared in a Fender Sessions video and performed three songs from their album Afrique Victime, including the title track "Afrique Victime", "Ya Habibti" and "Chismiten".[27] Moctar recorded an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, recorded in the winter of 2020 from a home in Niamey, Niger and released on NPR's website on 24 May 2021.[28]

Band members[edit]

Adapted from album liner notes.

  • Mahamadou "Mdou Moctar" Souleymane – lead guitar, vocals
  • Ahmoudou Madassane – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
  • Michael "Mikey" Coltun – bass guitar, backing vocals, drum machines; producer (2017–present)
  • Souleymane Ibrahim – drums, percussion, backing vocals (2019–present)

Former members

  • Aboubacar Mazawadje Ibrahim – drums (c. 2018)
  • Mahmoud "Achcouscous" Ahmed Jabre – drums (c. 2016–2017)


Studio albums[edit]

  • Anar (2008; reissued 2014 by Sahel Sounds)
  • Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (original soundtrack) (Sahel Sounds, 2015)
  • Sousoume Tamachek (Sahel Sounds, 2017)
  • Ilana: The Creator (Sahel Sounds, 2019)
  • Afrique Victime (Matador Records, 2021)

Live albums[edit]

Singles and EPs[edit]

  • Tahoultine (2011)
  • Anar / Vanessa (Sahel Sounds, 2012) (split with Brainstorm)
  • Ibitlan / Tiknass (Sunbone) (Sahel Sounds, 2020)

Compilation appearances[edit]

  • Music from Saharan Cellphones: Volume 1 (2010)[29]
  • 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)[30]
  • Rough Trade Shops Africa 13 (2014)
  • Mind the Gap #110 (2014)
  • Below the Radar 10 (2014)


  1. ^ a b "Afropop Worldwide | Mdou Moctar Talks Tuareg Film and Music". Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  2. ^ "MUZIEK: Mdou Moctar – Toeareg-rockheld voor de jonge generatie". Gonzo Circus. No. 123. 4 September 2014. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  3. ^ "tahoultine, chopped and skyped". Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Allan, Jennifer Lucy (October 2014). "Prince of the Desert". The Wire (368): 10.
  5. ^ a b c Deville, Christ (March 5, 2019). "Artist To Watch: Mdou Moctar". Stereogum. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  6. ^ Schardl, Kati (September 5, 2019). "Mdou Moctar's scorching riffs set to heat up shred-fest at The Wilbury". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  7. ^ "MDOU MOCTAR". Archived from the original on 30 March 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  8. ^ Doran, John (30 December 2014). "The playlist: the best Middle Eastern and North African music of 2014, with Noura Mint Seymali". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  9. ^ "Audio: Mdou Moctar & Brainstorm 'Anar/Vanessa'". Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  10. ^ "Mdou Moctar – 'Anar' (Official Video)". Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  11. ^ Kirkley, Chris. "here be dragons". Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  12. ^ Holslin, Peter. "Master of Saharan Guitar: Mdou Moctar "Anar"". Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  13. ^ "sahel vinyl". Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  14. ^ "Knik". Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  15. ^ "Mdou Moctar: Ilana (The Creator)". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  16. ^ "Mdou Moctar's 'Ilana' Is Perhaps The Most Fiery Psych-Rock Of The 21st Century". NPR. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  17. ^ "The 25 best psychedelic rock albums of the 2010s". Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  18. ^ "Mdou Moctar Announces New Album Afrique Victime, Released Music Video For Single Tala Tannam". Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  19. ^ Grow, Kory (2021-05-20). "Mdou Moctar's 'Afrique Victime' Redefines Freedom in Rock". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2021-07-23.
  20. ^ "Mdou Moctar's Vision Blossoms into a Desert Flower on Afrique Victime". 2021-05-21. Retrieved 2021-07-23.
  21. ^ "Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2021-07-23.
  22. ^ "Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime review – wild, virtuosic Tuareg blues". The Guardian. 2021-05-23. Retrieved 2021-07-23.
  23. ^ a b "Mdou Moctar announces new U.S. tour dates". The FADER. Retrieved 2022-03-08.
  24. ^ "i sing the desert electric (download)". Retrieved 27 December 2013.
  25. ^ "Mdou Moctar protagoniza un nuevo filme documental: "Rain the Color of Red with a Little Blue In It"". Conceptaradio,net. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
  26. ^ Kirkley, Christopher. "Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai OST". Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  27. ^ "Fender Sessions - Mdou Moctar". Retrieved 2022-02-08.
  28. ^ Boilen, Bob (2021-05-24). "Mdou Moctar: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert". NPR. Retrieved 2022-03-08.
  29. ^ "Music For Saharan Cellphones Vol.2 crowdfunding LP release". Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  30. ^ Cohen, Ian. "Porches". Retrieved 22 March 2014.