I was watching a 3-part video in which Adam Neely and Ben Levin converse about a range of topics. One thing that came up was a band featured on NPR Music‘s Tiny Desk Concerts. They’re called Songhoy Blues. Wikipedia describes them as a desert punk/blues group from Timbuktu, Mali. They were formed after fleeing strife and Sharia Law in their country. Their name comes from their being Songhoy people, which is an ethnic West African group. Nick Zinner, guitarist from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs produced a track of theirs called Soubour, which means “patience”. Following this, Zinner helped produce their first album, Music in Exile, in 2015.
I like their sound quite a bit. There’s something intriguing to hearing blues with Songhoy lyrics sung on top of them. Because I don’t understand the words, they become something of a 2nd melody to follow, instead. Guitarist Garba Toure is apparently the son of the percussionist for Ali Farka Toure (1939-2006), whose music also blended traditional Malian music and blues. The band covered their music at their inception.
For those of you interested, here’s a translation of the 2nd song in the set, above, Sekou Oumarou (go to the bottom and click English translation).
Here’s the description from the video, above, from Bob Boilen, host of All Songs Considered, NPR’s online music show:
The music I feel most connected to beyond rock is from Mali. The melodies are so fluid, so elegant and most of all so trance-inducing. It often sits on one chord and notes played revolve around that chord. It can feel like a drone at times, and in the case of Songhoy Blues it rocks, lulls and the percussion grooves are not only trance-inducing but dance-inducing.
Many of the musicians we know from Mali are in exile, driven out by Islamists threatening musicians and kidnapping them; the members of Tinariwen know this firsthand. There is sadness, defiance and celebration in the music Songhoy Blues brought to the Tiny Desk from a record called Music in Exile, which is co-produced by an artist most of us rock lovers know best from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nick Zinner. Rock and the desert blues, already closely connected in attitude and sound, fuse nicely with his touch — and can be felt in blissful rawness here.