Mdou Moctar - Afelan (4 stars)

Songwriting and guitar playing on live album lift it above most Saharan rock

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Mdou Moctar - Afelan

(Sahel Sounds)

Of all the tracks on Sahel Sounds’ game-changing Music From Saharan Cell Phones, Mdou Moctar’s ‘Tahoultine’ was the most startling, a futuristic Tuareg ballad constructed from multi-tracked autotune vocals and machine beats. It appears here in acoustic form, with Moctar’s lilting tenor tracing the serpentine melody on the top strings of his guitar, while his thumb maintains a steady root-note pulse. On this live album, the otherworldly electronics have been replaced with campfire atmospherics, but the strength of Moctar’s songwriting and guitar playing lift it above most Saharan rock. As gorgeous as the acoustic songs are, it’s the electric numbers which really astonish. Cranking up his Stratocaster, Moctar charges through Tinariwen’s ‘Chet Boghassa’, firing off stinging riffs and dizzying modal reels while his drummer hammers out a funky, propulsive groove. The raw spontaneity and ecstatic momentum of this music is a joy to behold.

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