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Mdou Moctar’s Electrifying Funeral For Justice

Nigerien guitarist explores oppression, cultural preservation on follow-up to acclaimed Afrique Victime
Mdou Moctar (Photo crdit: Ebru Yildiz)

Mdou Moctar – Funeral For Justice
Matador Records

Mdou Moctar’s 2021 album, Afrique Victime, marked a crucial breakthrough for the acclaimed Nigerien guitarist. His trademark fusion of Tuareg music and modern psych-rock resonated with the English-speaking world, demonstrating a gradual yet continuous opening up to new sounds and cultures.

This was confirmed by extensive European and North American tours (including a much-acclaimed set at Pitchfork Festival 2023), coverage from major outlets from PBS to Rolling Stone, and even a guest essay for the New York Times titled “Can Colonialism Be Overcome?” But while curiosity is the key to tolerance, so is the epiphany that “global” doesn’t necessarily mean “homogenized”; otherwise, we’d just be producing the same song en masse for the foreseeable future in a sort of AI-fueled dystopian vision.

Though it presents itself as a logical continuation of Afrique Victime, follow-up Funeral for Justice is much more political than its predecessor—following the current urgency to resist while exhorting one to do so through joy. “This ‘funeral’ overflows into the street filled with dance,” Black Monument Ensemble’s Damon Locks wrote of the album. “[It] is a clarion call for reason and a belief that change is possible.” However, any such undertones would dissolve if not for the electrifying music serving as their vehicle—even if calling it a “vehicle” sounds so outrageously reductive it borders on sacrilege.

Recorded in New York in only five days, the album amplifies its message through the energized delivery of nine tracks tackling issues like the oppression of the Tuareg people (through the hypnotic drumming of “Sousoume Tamacheq”), the preservation the Tamasheq language (the gripping dynamic shifts of “Imouhar”), and the desolate remnants of a French occupation whose ghost still hovers over Niger’s own self-determination (the liberating distortions of “Oh France”). 

Funeral For Justice represents another step in decentralizing the public discourse from Western normative standards, hopefully allowing for a better understanding of others and ourselves. – GRADE: A

You can check out Funeral for Justice on Bandcamp and elsewhere.

Matador Reecords