In December 2020, the group’s American-born bassist Mikey Coltun traveled to Niger to meet up with guitarists Mahamadou “Mdou Moctar” Souleymane and Ahmoudou Madassane and drummer Souleymane Ibrahim, who had been forced to remain in their native Niger due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coltun detailed the experience, stating:
Before it was decided that it was too unsafe for us to travel together outside the Niger capital, Niamey, we were planning to do concerts in villages throughout Niger, all with beautiful scenery. When Ahmoudou and I spent some time together at the beginning of the trip, we went location scouting in Niamey to see how we can achieve something similar while staying around the capital.
A friend of ours had taken us to a place on the outskirts of Niamey, “In the bush”. This land was right on the Niger River: a river flowing through Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria. Brainstorming different locations for filming, we came up with the idea to film a few songs at this location as the sun was coming up one morning.
On the night before I departed Niger, we played a late concert, loaded everything into Mdou’s car, packed in there all together, and dropped off the gear to the location about 30 minutes away. Mdou decided to sleep on location with the gear so none of it gets stolen. The rest of us woke up the next morning at 4 a.m., got into the car, picked up breakfast at a bakery, and drove to the location.
We set up quickly as we didn’t want to lose filming the sun coming up. We made a fire to keep us warm and also to keep the Tuareg tea brewing while we played. As we started playing “Tala Tannam” the sun came up and the two-colored Saharan bird, the pied crow, the symbol for Mdou Moctar, flew above us. Midway through the session we were greeted by a pack of goats coming towards us from who knows where. They stopped and listened for a bit. Totally spontaneous, as things usually are for the Mdou Moctar group. This session proved to be one of the most beautiful performances we’ve played together.
The trip also saw the band record an NPR TinyDesk Concert and provided the basis for a previously shared mini-documentary. Watch Mdou Moctar performing the Afrique Victime tracks “Tala Tannam,” “Bismillahi Atagh,” “Ya Habibti,” and “Chismiten” live by the Niger River below: