Live Review: Mdou Moctar brings Saharan magic to Variety Playhouse

Music is a very funny thing. It’s a collection of sounds that humanity has celebrated for thousands of years. Even with this long duration, music still remains fresh with a constant rotation of new artists trying their hand at expressing themselves. I’m constantly stumbling upon new artists with a handful completely blowing me away. One such artist is Mahamadou Souleymane, better known as Mdou Moctar, who hails from the desert village Agadez in Nigeria. He was inspired by Eddie Van Halen’s six-stringed techniques and blended this with traditional Tuareg melodies from his culture. Mdou Moctar built his own guitar and with it crafted his own style of rock and roll that spread far and wide from West Africa to most recently the United States where he and his band are on tour supporting both Parquet Courts and Emily Robb while also playing headliner shows. 


I got to see Mdou Moctar open for Parquet Courts in Atlanta this past Wednesday. I had specifically requested to do press for Mdou Moctar because of the story behind his legendary DIY attitude that got him from a small West African village to now playing packed out shows. Originally I had planned to see him perform at Bonnaroo in 2021 but said festival got canceled due to a hurricane. He was an artist I was very disappointed to miss seeing, so when I heard he was coming to Atlanta on tour I immediately jumped at the opportunity to see him. There was no way I would miss the King of Saharan Rock. The icing on the cake for me was working press for the show.


The Atlanta show was at Variety Playhouse where many of you know there is a mix of seating and standing areas. Most of the venue was packed just for Mdou Moctar. From the moment he walked onto the stage the entire crowd cheered him on, speaking to how impactful his music and story have been on music lovers. Everyone, including those seated, instantly vibed with his music which made his set feel more like a headliner, a rare feat for any opener. His entire set put a smile on my face and tears in my eyes as I finally got to witness Mdou Moctar’s magic I had read and seen through various live sets on YouTube. 

The best moment, and something I won’t forget, was at the end of his set where he got a roaring standing ovation from the full venue. I have never witnessed an opener get so much praise from a crowd, even more than some headliners I’ve seen over the years. All of it was very well deserved for taking everyone to church with his genre-bending blending of old and new cultures into music that is uniquely his own. I highly encourage you to check out Mdou Moctar and to catch one of his live shows.

Check out Mdou Moctar’s remaining tour dates!

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