Mdou Moctar: Psychedelic Tishoumaren Rock

Writer Harry Croxford / Photographer Rob Hadley – Indie Images

Presented by the folks over at This is Tmrw and Hare and Hounds on Friday, Mdou Moctar are electric in their rapturous repurposing of tracks from their most recent release Afrique Victime and previous releases.

Mdou Moctar has become one of the most recognisable Tishoumaren rock artists to circulate his music over recent years. Incorporating the blues-twinged, scales-driven, sound, Moctar and his band are intoxicating and have carved out a unique place in a scene populated by many talented artists.

Moctar and his band take the Tishoumaren sound – which dovetailed blues, rock, and, more notably with Moctar, psychedelic rock – and form a raucous space where a masterful technical frenzy electrifies the crowd.

The band emerges, ascending the stage in calm preparation. Dressed in traditional Tuareg garb – silken and richly saturated in colour – the band has established this as routine visual practice, connecting heritage and identity with their music of today. Slick, the band loads up their gear.

Ahmoudou Madassane, rhythm guitarist, gently taps and twangs his guitar. Michael Coltun’s bass begins chugging with an intense groove. Souleymane Ibrahim’s drums spark alight.

The sound of Moctar’s guitar is sharp, clean, the assortment of pedals a marker of how the band’s sound has evolved over the years. The palpable pleasure and energy visible on the faces of each member of the band is infectious, evidenced by the waves of whoops and claps from the audience.

Sustained throughout is a compelling contrast: the band’s technical prowess demands attention and an almost buzzing stillness from the players, even as Moctar’s fingers glide frantically up and down the fretboard.

Yet this contrast gives way to a vivid excitement: Moctar stands, riffs, but as he plays energy seeps into his movements. He kicks, twists, and laughs as he moves from bandmate to bandmate – the chemistry and delight is effervescent.

Despite the clarity and superb quality of the guitar, the mixing does cause Moctar’s and Madassane’s vocals to be drowned out beneath the dexterous riffs and pounding hail-fire of drums. But the rawness and overdriven sound, combined with their dedication to this whirling, twisting, cacophony keeps the crowd engrossed.

As the set continues, undergirding the rhythmic swells is Ibrahim’s superb drumming. ‘Afrique Victime’ is one such track where Ibrahim stands out most. His frenetic drumming rapidly increases in frequency and intensity, providing the track with a pounding pulse.

And for anyone who has listened to Mdou Moctar before, Tarhatazed… well you already know. The riff epitomises Moctar’s playing and has become a fan favourite. Here, it is no different. As the set began winding up, this track received a rapturous reception.

And the close, where crescendo and climax leaves the crowd ecstatic, and calling for encore. But, composed, relaxed, the band saunters off through the crowd leaving us to revel and reflect.

For more on Mdou Moctar visit

To listen to Mdou Moctar on Spotify click here, or to purchase the deluxe edition of Afrique Victim click here.