Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Songhoy Blues – Irganda

“We have only spent one month in Mali, in the last year” Oumar announced, half-proud half-exhausted. Such is the new life for Songhoy Blues, who have seen a non-stop rise in popularity, ever since their formation nearly three years ago.  It was over two years ago when Songhoy Blues first made their way onto the hub as Song of the Week and it was only 4 weeks after that which I was lucky enough to meet the band for the first time. It was a December full of first times for the boys of Songhoy Blues; their first trip to London for a start – the first adventure outside of Mali for most of them. Their journey included a first trip to the world famous recording studios of the BBC, a Europa League football game and even a trip to Primark. Of this list, there is one they have done many times since, another they’d love to do again and one which I can only presume they found as hilarious and traumatic as I did.

So it was on Monday 2nd February 2015, at the Oslo bar in Hackney, the four boys I knew bounded towards me as four well-travelled, wiser and ever-more talented young men. They spoke fondly of their experiences of India, France and Denmark, and their excitement for America – their next frontier. To prove to us how much they’ve learned they delivered a barn-storming performance. Front-man Aliou Touré had little trouble driving the packed crowd into a frenzy with his powerful vocals, call and response and his dazzling dancing. With the band in full, thumping flow they quickly proved TimeOut magazine’s prediction that would provide a performance that “set the room alight”.

Other than the brilliance of their performance, there were other very pleasing things about the evening. Despite their busy lives as professionals, their bright and unique characters had remained completely intact. They remain as ‘youthful, strong and fun‘ as ever. Similarly, the potency of what they believe in, why they started doing this, is burning brightly and spills eagerly into both performance and conversation. In addition, they appear to be supported excellently, infectious and appealing as the band’s music and message is. This week’s Song of  the Week is testament to this work – a single with  great energy and with a video capturing the band in Mali (for once). They are all collectively great ambassadors of the new Mali Songhoy Blues have come to represent. Four boys, from different ends of an often fractured country, refusing to let divisions get the better of them. When the going got tough, Songhoy Blues, like many Malian’s before them, reached for a guitar to help explain what’s really going on to the world and to help unite people back at home.


Songhoy Blues – Irganda

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