Album of the Week: Ilana (The Creator)

Welcome to Album of the Week! Each week on WFNP we’re gonna take a look at an album that us music directors at WFNP really find interesting, mind-boggling, or just plain fun! Stay tuned for posts on this and more throughout the semester!

THIS WEEK: IIana, The Creator by Mdou Moctar

This week we’re gonna take a look at the work of Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar. Based out of Agadez, Niger, He has blended the electric guitar stylings of artists like Jimi Hendrix with traditional Tuareg music. To give some context we should probably talk a little about the culture he’s so deeply ingrained in

The Tuareg people are traditionally a group of nomadic peoples who live in the Sahara Desert. The culture and traditions stem from Berber and pastoral cultures of the area. An often overlooked culture in the world at large, boasts a rich musical tradition of folk and other religious songs.

Mdou Moctar, after growing up in Niger and building his own guitar using bicycle cables for strings, began playing guitar at an early age. He released his first project ,Anar, in 2008 and in the past few years has become pretty popular, doing international tours, and playing in several important places online, including NPR’s Tiny Desk and KEXP. He has released several projects but we’re gonna take a look at his 2019 Album, published by Sahel Sounds, IIana, The Creator.

This is probably his most popular project and I think perfectly showcases the culmination of his talents, style, and vision in an awesome blend of musician cultures. The combination of electronic tones and rock stylings with a traditional style of guitar playing known as assouf. This was his first full band studio album, and it’s seriously inspiring to hear the full support of a guitarist who absolutely demolishes every track on this record.

The solos to me are the main highlight of the record. The way Moctar rides these unique drum feels and changes seems effortless, with a style that on one hand wails just as crazy as rock and blues classics, but heavily lends itself to the tradition of the Tuareg people. To me it’s such a fascinating way of approaching the guitar that I’m surprised I wasn’t aware of it sooner. 

These songs also have an air of celebration to them, an almost prayer and appreciation for the world and the power of music. Many of these songs stem from Tuareg religious themes, and after doing research on the meanings of each track you’ll find the album putting you in a trance-like, almost spiritual state. The way the project flows into itself feels like a true work of art

Give it a listen and expand your musical palate! I promise you will not be disappointed.

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