Label: Sahel Sounds Born in a nomad camp in Niger and now a leading figure of desert rock, Mdou Moctar stands out as the most innovative artist in contemporary Saharan music. His unconventional interpretations of Tuareg guitar have pushed him to the forefront of a crowded scene. In contrast to polished "world music" fare, Mdou trades in unrelenting grit and has no qualms about going full shred. A long time coming, 'Ilana' is Mdou's first true studio album. Recorded in Detroit at the tail end of a US tour by engineer Chris Koltay (who met after bonding over ZZ Top's 'Tres Hombres'), Mdou lived in studio for a week, playing into the early hours and accompanied by an all-star band: Ahmoudou Madassane's (Les Filles de Illighadad) lighting fast rhythm guitar, Aboubacar Mazawadje's machine gun drums, and Michael Coltun's structured low-end bass. The result is Mdou's most ambitious record to date, taking tradition into into an ever louder and blistering direction. From the rock anthem 'Tarhatazed,' to the Van Halen tapping of 'Kamane Tarhanin,' 'Ilana' stands amongst the greats of classic rock, albeit accidentally. "I don't know what rock is, I have no idea," he says, "I only know how to play my style."