Sahel Sounds. Music for desert picnics. Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar delves into his more sensitive side with a minimal studio recording of dreamy ballads. Emotive and introspective, exploring themes of religion, spirituality, and matters of the heart. Songs that are difficult to place, lifted out of half remembered memory for one last time. Mdou Moctar (né Mahamadou Souleymane) hails from the town of Tchintabaraden, Niger, a tiny village on the edge of the Sahara. Playing in the style of Tuareg guitar made popular in the West by Tinariwen and Bombino, Mdou is one of the few original singer/songwriters willing to experiment and push the boundaries of the genre at home and abroad. In 2012, Mdou relocated from his village to Agadez, the center of Niger’s guitar scene, and formed his band. Over the past years, he has become well-known on the international circuit, playing high energy electrified music in festivals and clubs across Europe and North America. In 2013, he released his first international album, Afelan, rocking and raw sessions recorded live in Niger. In 2015, he starred in the first ever Tuareg language film, Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (SAHEL 028DVD), a Nigerien remake of Purple Rain (1984). In the past years, Tuareg rock music, particularly that of Niger, has gotten faster, with wavering guitar solos, rapid fire drums, and heavy distortion. For Mdou, this was not always the case. Self-taught in a religious region that eschewed the guitar, Mdou was forced to learn music in secret. And when he did begin to play, there were no weddings or festivities. His early oeuvre was developed to play at informal private sessions with his friends. In these “takits” or picnics, Mdou and his friends would pass the lazy days together sitting under a tree, drinking tea, laughing, and singing songs. For Sousoume Tamachek, Mdou revisits this “music for desert picnics”, taking his compositions from his youth, and bringing them to the studio. From love ballads (“Nikali Talit”), religious praise (“Ilmouloud”), to life counsel (“Amidini”), the songs are intensely personal, both in content and in structure. Constructed around the guitar, Mdou plays everything on the album in lush layered overdubs, singing both call and response vocals, playing rhythm guitar, and drumming on the calabash. Produced in collaboration with Christopher Kirkley (Sahel Sounds) and long-time associate Jesse Johnson (Boomarm Nation), the light touch pays respect to the origin of these ballads.