Mdou Moctar entrances Orlando crowd at African-infused rock show

Mdou Moctar
Mdou Moctar on stage at The Social Orlando. Photo by Taylor Lovejoy/WMNF (May 2023).

Clad in an orange and white dashiki, clutching his left-handed Stratocaster, Mdou Moctar ripped through a set of bob-inducing grooves to an intimate Orlando crowd on Thursday.

From the moment the band hit The Social stage, funk filled the air — and not the kind that’d make you plug your nose. The Nigerien quartet’s syncopated structure made even the most arrhythmic people shake their core.

Moctar’s Orlando date was in support of the band’s fifth and latest record, 2021’s Afrique Victime, and is expected to be one of their last as they wrap up their tour in July. The band is set to begin recording their follow-up in the coming months.

Dubbed “the Hendrix of the Sahara,” Moctar honed his craft on a self-made guitar crafted out of salvaged wood, bicycle strings and a can of sardines. His music blends rock and blues with the North African “assouf,” also known as desert blues, and he sings in the Tamasheq language, native to the nomadic tribes of Niger, Mali and Algeria.

In a world where most boundaries have been pressed, innovation on one of the planet’s most popular instruments is rare. But at a 400 capacity venue on Thursday, Mdou Moctar proved that there’s still musical ground to uncover… and he’s on the path to dust the trail.

You can watch the band’s 2022 NPR Tiny Desk performance here.

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