As a child growing up in the Azawagh desert of Niger, Mdou Moctar taught himself to play on homemade guitars, cobbled together from whatever spare pieces of wood he could gather. The self-determined young artist quickly grew to local fame for his gritty guitar playing, a style that stands in contrast to the more traditional sounds of his contemporaries, like Bombino and Tinariwen. This March, the Tuareg virtuosic guitarist, and songwriter released his first full band studio album - he's released previously released four DIY albums - titled _Ilana (The Creator)_ via the Portland-based label focusing on West African music, Sahel Sounds. Sonically resplendent and lyrically hopeful, the album is a celebration of the music of Niger while reflecting on deep issues that continue to plague the nation. Peak Time correspondent Mark "Frosty" McNeil recently sat down with Moctar on his recent North American tour.