Mdou Moctar - Ilana (The Creator) - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mdou Moctar - Ilana (The Creator)

by Rob Taylor Rating:8 Release Date:2019-03-29
Mdou Moctar - Ilana (The Creator)
Mdou Moctar - Ilana (The Creator)

Mdou Moctar shares a kin with others of the Saharan blues guild such as Imarhan, Tinariwen, Bombino, and Terakaft, especially in the anodyne rhythms of opener ‘Kamane Tarhanin’. Where Moctar differs is that his is a looser, more ragged form of West African blues, more aligned with western rock music. A coarsely grained, less glossy representation of the Tuareg form.

‘Asshet Akal’ is a cross-bred blues/rock number with a pensive opening redolent of the more forlorn compositions of The Doors, but quickly segueing into more neutral and less fraught themes, making way for a taste of free-wheeled psychedelia, Eddie Hazel style.

Shoot straight to ‘Tarhatazed’ for some of the wildest and most insurgent rock music to come from Africa in recent times. The guitar style can be compared with Van Halen and Vernon Reid; the breakneck pace and decisive phrasing. The sheer excitement of listening to a musician seemingly destined to run out of ideas, but conjuring new byways of creativity, moving inexorably, though wilfully to a cataclysmic finale.

What I also liked in ‘Tarhatazed’ was the playful separation and convergence, the guitars whizzing from left to right channel like those audio samplers they used to play in high-end electronic retailers in the 1970s, or the first Dolby surround sounds reproduced in cinemas.

There’s been some debate about the relative influences in cross-cultural music. Moctar has been quoted as saying "I don't know what rock is exactly. I have no idea. I only know how to play in my style." and frankly, these days influences are so fluid. Music travels quickly. The influence of Tuareg music on bands such as Goat is now well documented, and Moctar himself was rather fond of early ZZ Top. Ragged, shambolic blues music drowned in amber, blurry-eyed and vaguely underproduced. Ilana (The Creator) was recorded in Detroit whilst on tour. Where unbridled joy in rock music’s cruder forms, its anarchic spirit, reigns above conventionality.

Yet, much of Ilana (The Creator) pays deference to the core folk elements of the Tuareg. The hypnotic, rhythmically frenetic desert blues is at the heart of an album that refuses to be compartmentalised, forging Pan-African and western sounds into a sound that mocks the current right-wing view that suggests we are culturally distinct. More, please.

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