Last year, the Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar made quite a splash Stateside with his new album Ilana (The Creator). Though it was hardly the 34-year-old’s first foray into music, it brought him a newfound level attention in the indie sphere. (We opted to name him an Artist To Watch last spring.) It was a stunning collection, and he’s been touring behind it pretty constantly ever since. And before his next round of shows, he’s releasing a new song.
Well, sort of. “Ibitlan” has a pretty deep history within Mdou Moctar’s work. It dates all the way back to 2008, a far different version of the composition appearing on his debut Anar, the album where he experimented with AutoTune and other electronic tools. That was also an album that came out during the days when Moctar’s music was traded via cellphone around the Sahara, though Anar received a commercial release later on, in 2014. “Ibitlan” became crucial part of Moctar’s live performances over the years, and in recent times evolved into a rollicking full-band exploration that could stretch on past the 10 minute mark.
Anyone who’s seen him recently could tell you how well “Ibitlan” works in that setting, and anyone who’s seen that could wish for a recorded version that approximates that iteration of the song. That’s what this new release of “Ibitlan” is — a pretty thorough reimagining after years growing and changing on the road. Cut during the Ilana sessions, this version fits right in alongside the sun-baked traveling songs Moctar has brought on the road since, though its themes are quite different.
While much of Ilana’s lyrics were political in nature, “Ibitlan” is more of a love song. “It’s like when there’s a valley, with a stream running through it, and all the plants are green, the song is about how my girlfriend is beautiful like that,” Moctar explained. “Her skin is like a yellow flower, and her smile is like lightning.” Check out “Ibitlan” below.
And as mentioned before, Moctar has a bunch of North American dates coming up once more. If you haven’t seen him live yet, you should rectify that:
03/15 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
03/16 – Ottawa, ON @ Club SAW
03/17 – Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa
03/19 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair *
03/20 – Holyoke, MA @ Gateway City Arts
03/21 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Sultan Room
03/22 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Sultan Room
03/23 – Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar +
03/24 – Durham, NC @ Motorco Music Hall +
03/25 – Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor +
03/26 – Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West *
03/27 – Knoxville, TN @ Big Ears Festival
03/29 – Boise, ID @ Treefort Music Festival
03/31 – Detroit, MI @ Deluxx Flux
04/01 – Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle ^
04/02 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon ^
04/03 – Iowa City, IA @ The Mill
04/04 – Omaha, NE @ Reverb Lounge
04/08 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios #
04/10 – Arcata, CA @ The Miniplex #
04/11 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel #
04/13 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Teragram Ballroom #
* with Antibalas
+ with 75 Dollar Bill
^ with Steve Gunn/John Truschinski Duo, Bill Nace
# with Lithics