Mdou Moctar : Funeral for Justice

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Mdou Moctar Funeral for Justice review

Funeral for Justice is a gut-punch of a title, arresting by design. There’s a sense of bleakness and defeat to it—which is not something you could have said about Mdou Moctar‘s music before. It’s complex, intense, even joyful, but whatever darkness existed within it never overcame the hope that underscored their music. But the band, named for its lead guitarist and singer, has been through a lot; last year, while touring the U.S., the government of their home country of Niger was deposed in a coup, leaving its leadership in a state of instability and uncertainty. Meanwhile, the country’s borders were temporarily closed, leaving Mdou Moctar stranded for a time, unable to return home to loved ones.

Mdou Moctar completed recording Funeral For Justice before the coup actually happened, but the timing is nonetheless apt. Moctar said he doesn’t support the coup, but he likewise never supported France’s longtime colonial rule over Niger, making the period of transition a conflicted one. And as it arrives, global conflicts—some of which have been ongoing for the better part of a century—continue to flare. But despite the heaviness inherent in the title Funeral for Justice and the grief it evokes, Mdou Moctar’s follow-up to 2021’s Afrique Victime is a call for action and liberation. From the fiery power chords of its opening title track, Moctar beckons world leaders to, well, actually lead: “Retake control of your countries, rich in resources / Build them and quit sleeping.” 

Protest music rarely feels so organic and alive as it does on Funeral for Justice, its nine songs driven by and energy and fire that makes the anti-colonial sentiment within them all the more potent. Stylistically extending from where Afrique Victime left off, Moctar’s latest is defined by the power behind it more than anything. Simply put, these songs are louder, bigger, heavier—even for a group and a guitarist known for delivering dazzling feats of electrifying fretwork. There’s likewise a sense of dynamism at play that makes each song feel as if it’s constantly escalating, which is undoubtedly true for songs like the slow coalescence of the hypnotic groove in “Takoba,” or the sharp divide that happens a little over a minute into “Imouhar,” wherein a sharp squeal of guitar marks the point at which its muffled, lo-fi intro goes Kool-Aid Man through a widescreen sonic barrier.

The musical urgency of Funeral for Justice isn’t simply parallel to the poignancy of its message, they’re inextricable from one another. “When we want to send the message about politics, we need something very heavy, strong, fast, and crazy—you feel like it’s an emergency,” Moctar told Pitchfork. “It’s the same as when you hear the ambulance.” Moments like the opening track, the crash of electric guitar lightning in “Imouhar” or pretty much the entirety of “Sousoume Tamacheq” achieve just the objective set forth by the group—they’ll stop you in your tracks.

Label: Matador

Year: 2024

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Mdou Moctar Funeral for Justice review

Mdou Moctar: Funeral for Justice

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