This week’s Song of the Week is a tale of two Nicks, inspired by the Songhoy Blues song. The band used the music video to showcase their fun and frolics from Glastonbury Festival last year. Getting a fantastic billing on the Pyramid Stage produced probably their most significant performance to date. The video – directed excellently by Connor Gilhooly with stunning videography – summarises a perfect Glastonbury experience. The long slog down some forgotten A-road, the sun, the drizzle, the standing-around-in-a-patch-of-muddy-gravelly-stuff. Charmingly, it encapsulates the bands personality entirely too. The unchanging fun, the sense of awe, the adventure; as if the world is the entertainer, not the other way around.
The video, somewhat ingeniously, captures one of the most important constants in the imagery of desert blues – travel. Or rather, to put it less romantically, transit. The latter preferred here as it alludes to that often cited monotonous, mesmerising, sometimes soporific, feature of getting from one place to the other as well as some of the more torpid examples of Malian blues. The song title here refers to Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner – the man behind the zest of Songhoy Blues’ break-through track ‘Soubour‘. Now many readers out there will know of another Nick, one whose legend puts him a close second behind Saint Nicolas in the list of ‘All Time Greatest Nicks’. For the last three decades or so primarily through his work with the World Circuit record label Nick Gold has been at the forefront of world music production, specialising in Cuban and West African music. Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabaté, Buena Vista Social Club, Oumou Sangaré all arrived in our eardrums in such exquisite form courtesy of Gold. Indeed you are still far more likely to hear a Malian song about him than any other Nick, with Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabaté having already made notable tributes.
That is not to say that this new Nick on the block is less worthy of praise, only newer, and different. After all, Songhoy Blues did write a song about him. As a musician first and foremost he can go toe-to-toe with Songhoy Blues and understand different things. Though relatively new to Mali music scene, Zinner is well travelled and has played with a whole host of different musicians. In an insightful interview Zinner comes across as characteristically relaxed. Like the band, he seems impregnable; unfazed by the hype that surrounds Africa Express and Songhoy Blues, explaining things as how they are and in so doing makes them so much more real. So much more astonishing.
Getting ever better, Songhoy Blues stand on the cusp of another career defining performance. Without Glastonbury’s ‘passing trade’ they have taken on full responsibility of filling the 2000-capacity Roundhouse in north London this Saturday (21st). They however do have some help from some friends in the form of the incredible Fatoumata Diawara, Blick Bassy, United Vibrations and a DJ set from Dave Okumu (The Invisible). Tickets are still on sale, allegedly, so before you act on the presumption that the only way into this gig would be smuggled within a calabash, perhaps check here first: http://www.roundhouse.org.uk/whats-on/2016/songhoy-blues/. See you there.
Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.
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