GUITAR OF THE SANDS
Moudou ould Mattalla
Editions BUDA Musique (3017296)
Chinguetti is a historic city of the Sahara. Electric guitarist Moudou ould Mattalla takes us through Moorish music, between guitar arabesques, rythmic improvisations and palm grove women songs.
This album received the four Keys from Telerama (one of the leading cultural magazines in France)
About the project
The first half of this album is literally spellbinding. Mauritanian Moudou ould Mattalla plays electric guitar, but what we hear are the the twisted sounds, in the lowest notes, of the two-stringed lute tidinit. Along with him, women sing melancholic refrains and clap with their hands intoxicating ryhtms. The desert is there, at ear's range, with its slow syncopated dances which invite shoulders to undulate and the heads to swirl. Fans of Ali Farka Toure will quickly hear the familiarity with the tamashek traditions of Timbuktu. Those who have been thrilled by the few touareg rock bands that became known over the past few years will find here an opportunity to get to know better the most rugged but also most charming of their sources.
Halfway, the magic of these solo improvisations, judiciously relayed by collective folk songs, frays a little. But it may simply be the alternation of the traditional modes, at first festive like karr and varhou, then more and more meditative, lekhal, lebyad. As a matter of fact, at the second listening, the difference is less clear, and we end up giving in the hypnosis until the last guitar chord.
The name of Moudou ould Mattalla could easily appear next to other, more famous self-taught guitar players, such as Debashish Bhattacharya in India, D’Gary in Madagascar and Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, founder of the malian band Tinariwen. The common point of this small diaspora is to rise from the ranks by transposing a part of the traditionnal repertoire of their respective regions on an electric guitar, without ever altering its essence nor desert its spirit. In the case of this musician born in Chinguetti, the ancestral city of the Mauritanian Sahara, the transfer was operated from the two-string lute tidinit, one of these instruments of the great desert, the thin sound of which hides an evocative power with endless resources.
Moudou, who confesses having listened extensively to Pink Floyd while younger, had his task facilitated for reasons of obvious assonance. Since Ali Farka Toure - of whom he proposes himself as very acceptable Mauritanian godchild - we know the proximity between some West-African musical structures and those which inspired the many styles stemming from the blues. This record in which he is accompanied by the El Mouna feminine choir, consitutes the phonographic birth certificate of the guitarist. It makes one feel like transported in the intimacy of an evening in the land of dunes, with the song of crickets as a background, savouring this languorous fullness born of the summary and the fragile. Besides the exceptionnal poetic quality of the music, the booklet deserves credit for revealing many musicologic secrets of this region. Quite a journey.