PLAYLIST: Mdou Moctar Shares His Van Tunes

The Nigerian guitarist celebrates the release day of his first studio album with nine songs that have soundtracked his current North American tour.

Although Tinariwen may be responsible for introducing North American audiences to Tishoumaren over a decade ago with their first studio recordings, Nigerian guitarist Mdou Moctar is here to tell us a little more about the genre, an electric guitar-led assault of desert blues. His debut studio album Ilana (The Creator) is an atmospheric blend of Moctar’s baroque vocals and his foregrounded guitar, which wanders frantically through each of the record’s nine dense tracks.

While the Tuareg guitarist’s sound may be unfamiliar to many rock enthusiasts, you may recognize a few of the artists who soundtracked his band’s current tour. Along with Malian blues guitarist Ali Farka Touré, Moctar cites Hendrix, Van Halen, ZZ, and Prince as the guitar-rock artists who’ve kept him awake as he makes his way across the U.S. during his tour of the country (oh, Moctar starred as The Purple One Who Lives Inside His Own Heart, Matt Damon in a Saharan remake of Purple Rain, by the way). As a companion piece to Ilana, stream Moctar’s van tunes below, and hear what he has to say about each track.

Ilana (The Creator) is out today on Sahel Sounds.

Ali Farka Touré, “Inchana Massina”

I love Ali Farka Touré’s voice and melodies. He writes very nice songs. He is the first musician to play folklore, like old instruments, from the region.

Prince, “Purple Rain”

This is a very important song to me. I love Prince and his story—it’s like my story. Good composition.

Jimi Hendrix, “Who Knows”

Jimi Hendrix plays like Tuareg style—he’s like American Tuareg. Wow, his solo! I like when people tell me Hendrix didn’t go to school for guitar, he learned on his own. It’s like, where I live, there are no music schools.

Tinariwen, “Amidinin”

Another album we listen to on repeat in the van. In this song they talk about friends. Friends are very important and I love touring with my friends Ahmoudou, Mikey, and Souleymane.

Steve Gunn, “Vagabond”

Mikey plays in this band also. He played this album in the van on a long late night drive and we all really liked it. I like the guitars on here. It also reminds me of a Tuareg song.

Khaira Arby, “Goumou”

Wooo! This song she sings for the prophet Mohammed. I’m also Muslim, and this song is very important and special to me. One of the greatest voices in all of Africa. Her music makes me cry, it’s so beautiful. She died not too long ago. God bless Khaira Arby.

Tallawit Timbouctou, “Hali Diallo”

Takamaba is the original Tuareg music. My style of guitar playing comes from this style. This is such important music in the Tuareg culture. We listen to this very, very loud in the car!

Van Halen, “Eruption”

Oh god! My favorite guitarist in the world! I love his tapping style. I try to learn how to play like him if he’s not a Djinn [genie]…

ZZ Top, “Waitin’ for the Bus”

I first heard this in Detroit. We listened to this album a lot on the last couple of tours.


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