Imagine if music was outlawed, sounds dreadful doesn’t it? Well, Songhoy Blues faced this problem when Islamic militants took over Timbuktu and banned music-making. After fleeing and appearing on the Damon Albarn-curated Africa Express album ‘Maison Des Jeunes’ in 2014, they have crafted a powerful and joyous reaction to the illegalisation of music in their native Northern Mali.

The appropriately named ‘Music in Exile’ merges traditional Malian blues rock with expertly constructed eclectic guitar sounds. The group buzz of Garba’s nimble playing. His guitar lines encourage the rumbling rhythm and Aliou’s soulful voice to give chase, leading to frenzied climaxes best demonstrated on ‘Nick’ and ‘Al Hassidi Terei’.

Just like the Swedish tribal group Goat, Songhoy Blues’ real dexterity is the ability to emit potent and contagious body-shaking grooves that are impossible to ignore. ‘Music in Exile’ is a fascinating sonic insight to the culture of the Songhoy ethnic group. Luckily for us, the Songhoy Blues members didn’t give in and be quiet.


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