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Photo of Mdou Moctar (provided via Mdou Moctar's Twitter).

The Union to feature contemporary Saharan music artist

Mdou Moctar, a contemporary Saharan music artist, is coming to Athens Tuesday to play at The Union Bar and Grill, 18 W. Union St.

Hailing from Niger, he and his band indulge in many contemporary rock sounds and have been known to put its own distinct twist on the style. 

“The style of playing is similar to surf rock, but the Eastern-rooted scales they use and singing in their native language is what makes it interesting for me,” Reese Clutter, a junior studying music production who will attend the concert Tuesday night, said. “It makes them stand out from the rest of the music saved on my phone.”

Moctar and his band released its latest project earlier this year, Ilana: The Creator, on the Sahel Sounds record label. The album contains fusions of groovy rock ‘n’ roll and Saharan music elements on nine tracks of material. 

Jack Tecca, a junior studying marketing and music production, said there is some desert blues influence especially evident on the band’s last album. Desert blues is known to have been the reference point for the birth of traditional American blues but is noticeably different than modern takes on blues music. Tecca is eagerly awaiting to see the band perform live, noting that its stage presence adds another element to its personality as a band.

“I definitely want to hear ‘Anna’ off the new record,” he said. “I would just like to see how they work improvisation into their set.”

The Union, in partnership with Blackout Booking, has booked many artists that are looking to broaden their audience and expose their music to many who may be less familiar with their style. Scott Winland, the booking manager for The Union, anticipates that the show will not be one to miss out on. 

“Mdou Moctar is one of the most innovative artists in contemporary Saharan music,” he said. “I think Athens music fans of all types will really enjoy this show.”

A band that is considered “underground” or “obscure” can offer a lot to a new audience hungry for new types of music and styles outside of their comfort zone. Tecca believes that the band’s music warrants a listen from more people, especially fans of the rock genre.

“I think that those influences on music should be given more credit because it’s just a fantastic blend of sounds that I don’t think people are super familiar with,” he said.

Clutter echoed these sentiments, also praising Ohio University and Athens for being accepting of musical acts that may have a less conventional sound. 

“I would say it’s important for smaller bands like this to come to this area for exposure,” Clutter said. “Athens is an amazing town to experience music in, and the people here really appreciate every band that comes through.”


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