Mdou Moctar | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Watch Mdou Moctar’s ‘Afrique Victime’ documentary, see photos of their sold-out Johnny Brenda’s show
When Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar played a packed house show at Johnny Brenda’s last week, it was an even bigger deal than many of us realized. Yes, he was one of the first touring artists to play the Fishtown venue after it was shuttered for 18 months; yes, it was the fabled “first show back” for many fans in the house. The energy between Moctar’s soaring licks, his bandmate’s deep grooves, and the crowd’s enthusiasm was transcendent.
But for Moctar, an added level of significance came due to the lockdown hitting them doubly so. In addition being unable to tour due to the global pandemic, threats of violence in their home country of Niger made it impossible for them to perform back home as well.
A new documentary short released today on Mdou Moctar’s YouTube shines light on the turmoil the musicians faced while also documenting a performance in the capital city of Niamey, Mdou Moctar’s frist time performing with his bandmates — guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane, bassist Mikey Coltun, drummer Souleymane Ibrahim — since 2019, a year they played 200 shows around the world.
Hosted by Coltun and filmed by him, as well as Mamadou Halidou, and WH Moustapha, Afrique Victime intersperses vivid footage of the countryside of Niger and the neighborhoods of Niamey, with rehearsal and performance clips. In interviews, the band talks about the themes of love, revolution, and politics on their latest album, as well as their inspirations — “I’m listening for [Tuareg music pioneer] Takamba and then I’m listening for Eddie Van Halen,” says Moctar — and the reasons why they avoid playing shows at home — “It’s not just to protect myself, it’s to protect everyone,” says Moctar. “Here in Africa, it’s the worst thing you can do if you need to survive is be a musician.”
Watch the Afrique Victime documentary above and check out photos of the Johnny Brenda’s show below; Mdou Moctar’s 2021 tour continues tonight in Gailen, MI and tomorrow in Chicago, IL, and dates can be found here.