Today, Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Mdou Moctar is proud to announce his new album  – his first recorded in a proper studio – Ilana (The Creator), out Mar. 29th on Sahel Sounds. He has shared the first single, “Kamane Tarhanin,” and has announced spring tour dates in support of the new record.



Mdou Moctar immediately stands out as one of the most innovative artists in contemporary Saharan music. His unconventional interpretations of Tuareg guitar have pushed him to the forefront of a crowded scene. Back home, he’s celebrated for his original compositions and verbose poetry, an original creator in a genre defined by cover bands. In the exterior, where Saharan rock has become one of the continents biggest musical exports, he’s earned a name for himself with his guitar moves. Mdou shreds with a relentless and frenetic energy that utterly sets him apart.

Mdou Moctar hails from a small village in central Niger in a remote region steeped in religious tradition. Growing up in an area where secular music was all but prohibited, he taught himself to play on a homemade guitar cobbled together out of wood. It was years before he found a “real” guitar and taught himself to play in secret. His immediately became a star amongst the village youth. 

In 2008, Mdou traveled to Nigeria to record his debut album of spacey autotune, drum machine, and synthesizer. The album became a viral hit on the mp3 networks of West Africa, and was later released on the compilation Music from Saharan Cellphones. In 2013, he released Afelan, compiled from field recordings of his performances recorded in his village. Then he shifted gears, producing and starring in the first Tuareg language film, a remake of Prince’s Purple Rain (Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red in It). Finally, in 2017, he created a solo folk album, Sousoume Tamachek, a mellow blissed out recording evoking the calm desert soundscape. Without a band present, he played every instrument on the record. “I am a very curious person and I want to push Tuareg music far,” he says. 

A long time coming, Ilana is Mdou’s first true studio album with a live band. Recorded in Detroit at the tail end of a US tour by engineer Chris Koltay (the two met after bonding over ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres), the band lived in the studio for a week, playing into the early hours. Mdou was accompanied by an all-star band: Ahmoudou Madassane‘s (Les Filles de Illighadad) lighting fast rhythm guitar, Aboubacar Mazawadje‘s machine gun drums, and Michael Coltun‘s structured low-end bass. The album was driven by lots of spontaneity – Mdou’s preferred method of creation – jumping into action whenever inspiration struck. The resulting tracks were brought back to Niger to add final production: additional guitar solos, overdubs of traditional percussion, and a general ambiance of Agadez wedding vibes.

The result is Mdou’s most ambitious record to date. Ilana takes the tradition laid out by the founders into hyperdrive, pushing Tuareg guitar into an ever louder and blistering direction. For Mdou, his style is to draw on both modern and traditional sources and combine elements into new forms. In “Ilana” Mdou reaches back into Tuareg folklore for inspiration, riffing on the hypnotic loops of takamba griots, or borrowing vocal patterns from polyphonic nomad songs, and combining them with his signature guitar. You can hear the effect in tracks like “Kamane Tarhanin,” where a call and response lyric lifts up over a traditional vocal hum before breaking into a wailing solo with tapping techniques learned from watching Youtube videos of Eddie Van Halen. 

As Mdou travels the world, he divides his time between two places, alternating from lavish weddings in Agadez to sold out concerts in Berlin nightclubs. It offers a unique perspective, but also means that he needs to address different audiences. At home, his compositions send a message to his people. Abroad, his music is an opportunity to be heard and represent his people on a world stage.


1. Kamane Tarhanin

2. Ashet Akal

3. Inizgam

4. Anna

5. Takamba

6. Tarhatazed

7. Wiwasharnine

8. Ilana

9. Tumastin


Tue. January 15 – Macon, GA @ Grant’s Lounge

Wed. January 16 – Atlanta, GA @ 529

Fri. January 18 – Miami, FL @ Gramps

Tue. January 22 – Harrisonburg, VA @ The Golden Pony

Thu. March 28 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Andy Warhol Museum

Fri. March 29 – Cleveland, OH @ Now That’s Class

Sat. March 30 – Detroit, MI @ Trinosophes

Sun. March 31 – Kalamazoo, MI @ Bell’s Eccentric Cafe

Tue. April 2 – Columbus, OH @ Ace of Cups

Wed. April 3 – Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop

Thu. April 4 – Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle

Fri. April 5 – Milwaukee, WI @ Milwaukee Psych Festival

Sat. April 6 – Minneapolis, MN @ Cedar Cultural Center

Mon. April 8 – Denver, CO @ Globe Hall

Tue. April 9 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge

Fri. April 12 – Olympia, WA @ Octapas

Sat. April 13 – Portland, OR @ Star Theater

Sat. April 20 – Los Angeles, CA @ Zebulon

Sun. April 21 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah

Tue. April 23 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sister

Thu. April 25 – Austin, TX @ Hotel Vegas

Fri. April 26 – Lafayette, LA @ TBA

Sat. April 27 – Lafayette, LA @ TBA

Sun. April 28 – New Orleans, LA @ New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 

Pre-order Ilana (The Creator) – https://mdoumoctar.bandcamp.com/album/ilana-the-creator

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

Check Also


Singer, songwriter Vérité drops new track “Think of Me” today, off her upcoming sophomore album …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.