There are around three million Tuareg people living in the Saharan region of Africa, and they turn out an impressive number of musicians who find audiences in other parts of the world. There’s Tinariwen, Bombino, Tamikrest, and Imarhan, and now it’s unquestionably Mdou Moctar’s turn. The Nigerien guitarist first made a name for himself on African MP3-sharing networks and has raised his international profile over the past several years with a series of excellent albums released on the Portland-based Sahel Sounds record label. His newest—this year’s Ilana: The Creator—is an intoxicating fusion of hypnotic rhythms and searing guitar work that will go down as one of 2019’s best releases in any genre.
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