TVD Live Shots: Mdou Moctar with Emily Robb at the 9:30 Club, 3/22

While we were away.Ed.

A packed to the rafters 9:30 Club in Washington, DC hosted Tuareg guitarist and songwriter Mdou Moctar as he wound down the US leg of his Afrique Victime tour on March 22.  

Philadelphia guitar goddess Emily Robb kicked off the night. Performing alone, Robb provided support to this tour promoting her first solo album How to Moonwalk. While some of her instrumentals were fuzzy and, as others have noted, lacking in melody, others had a decidedly blues bent. All were loud and raw and, without vocals, even meditative and hypnotic. Dressed in traditional robes, Mdou Moctar and his backing band (Ahmoudou Mokadassane, Souleymane Ibrahim, and Michael “Mikey” Coltun) then took the stage for a loose and joyful hour-long set.

If you are unfamiliar with the Mdou Moctar’s backstory, gather ‘round. Moctar is based in a desert village in rural Niger, called Agadez. Growing up in a conservative family that disapproved of electric music, Moctar built his own guitar with almost no instructions, using items like bicycle cables, reclaimed wood, and bits from a sardine can. His self-taught shredding—which has earned him the moniker “Hendrix of the Sahara”—spread via mobile phone data cards, a popular local form of distribution. Moctar eventually won approval from his community by writing, producing, and starring in the first Tuareg language film, a remake of Purple Rain.

Afrique Victime explores the effects of colonialism and other issues in Niger. However, when performing his songs to a DC audience, what was striking was the sheer delight he took in playing. The delight was infectious; early in the set, Moctar’s uncle, a DC resident, became overcome with pride and marched on stage to hand out cash to the band. He took the microphone and introduced his nephew to the 9:30 Club.  The crowd roared its approval.

The Afrique Victime tour ended its late winter US run on March 25th.  It picks up in Europe on April 1 in Antwerp, Belgium, and extends into August.

EMILY ROBB

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