On September 21, Kings hosts a screening of Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai featuring guitarist Mdou Moctar. A Tuareg twist on Prince's Purple Rain, "Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai" translates to "rain that is blue with red in it." It adapts the American cult classic into a Nigerien context: Moctar battles not with a physically abusive father but with a strictly religious father who bans music in the house; songs are swapped and shared via cellphones as they are throughout the region, and the rural Sahara replaces the urban Minneapolis as the landscape for our hero's journey. But certain motifs remain consistent: the purple motorcycle, for one, and the impeccable charm of the main character in his devotion to his music.
The film's director, Portland-based Christopher Kirkley, runs the Portland record label Sahel Sounds. The label emerged from Kirkley's ragtag ethnographic project of the same name, which explored the sound and music of northwestern Africa. Since its inception in 2009, Sahel Sounds has quickly established itself as the premier curator of music from the region. It was pivotal in elevating Moctar from regional to international recognition.
In Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai, Moctar proves to be the secret sauce, managing to carry the massive weight of Prince's legacy while still charting his own territory as a musician and actor. As you walk away from the film, it's hard not to feel in your bones that Moctar is destined to be a rock star.
The September screening is only an appetizer: on October 3, Moctar stops at Kings for a full-band set of his own, part of the group's first-ever tour of the United States. And you don't even need to purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka to enjoy it. —Katie Fernelius