Mdou Moctar Introduces Tuareg Music to UCSB


Andrew Arias

KCSB-FM hosted a free film screening and director question and answer session (Q&A) followed by a live performance by Mdou Moctoar, the film’s star and Tuareg guitarist, on Oct. 21.

Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai,” the film’s name translates toRain the Color of Blue With a Little Red In It.” The film is a narrative remake of the 1984 film “Purple Rain,” featuring Prince. The story explores a musician’s struggle with his family, his band, and himself.

“Rain the Color of Blue With a Little Red In It” is named so because there is no word for purple in Tuareg. The movie, directed by Christopher Kirkley, is a study in ethnographic film-making. It is the first film to be shot entirely in Tuareg language.

Mdou is depicted as a well-known guitarist forced to hide his passion from his father, who doesn’t approve that Mdou plays music. After some deliberation, Mdou enters a music competition against a fierce rival, Saher. Mdou battles with love and loss along the way.

Director Kirkley gave insight into the music industry in Niger in an interview with David Novak, Director of University of California, Santa Barbara’s Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Music (UCSB CISM). 

For many Nigerien guitarists, “making it big” depends on the group’s ability to book weddings. Most musicians strive to become prominent wedding performers.

Kirkley explained that people in Agadez, where the film is set, don’t have iTunes or Spotify. Instead, people use cell-phones as a medium to share music via Bluetooth.

Director Christopher Kirkley reached out to Moctar about making the film after he heard Moctar’s music through a cell-phone while in Niger. Kirkley wanted to bring Tuareg music to the West, but he also wanted to make a film for the people of Tuareg to enjoy.

After the interview, there was delicious pumpkin curry and samosas for attendees to enjoy before they saw Mdou Moctar perform.

Moctar’s performance perfectly introduced Tuareg music to an unfamiliar audience. The crowd tasted how traditional Tuareg music is revitalized with electric guitar. Moctar’s music met psychedelic-tinged blues with rhythmic, West African tones.

The drummer and rhythm guitarist set the foundation for Mdou to capitalize his sounds on while he wowed audience with his masterful solos. Some audience members couldn’t resist standing up and moving to Mdou’s and the band’s vibes.

Mdou Moctar introduced UCSB to a foreign and unique style of music at his worldwide tour’s last stop.