Songhoy Blues: bringing people together

Following the release of their second album, Résistance, Malian rockers Songhoy Blues lit up Kentish Town’s Forum on Thursday night. Songhoy Blues is Garba Touré (guitar), Aliou Touré (vocals), Oumar Touré (guitar) and Nathanael Dembélé (drums). Despite three members sharing the same surname, they are unrelated, but all belong to the Songhoy people (hence the band name). Often described as producing ‘desert rock’, in reality Songhoy Blues defy labels. The quartet expertly produce a sound which blends influences from the Beatles to classic R&B. The result is extremely satisfying.

The show

Following support from jazz/soul producer Alfa Mist, Songhoy Blues took to the stage. As the set began, Aliou immediately grabbed the audience’s attention with his infectious enthusiasm. He was clearly having a great time as he danced in a way that would put Future Islands’ Samuel Herring to shame. The show began with singles from Résistance, with ‘Sahara’ particularly well received. Unfortunately Iggy Pop didn’t appear for his feature in the song, so Aliou took over his gravelly vocals. Classic tracks from the band’s first album, Music in Exile, also went down well. While it’s difficult to sing along to the lyrics if you’re not fluent in Malian-French patois, this certainly doesn’t hinder your enjoyment of the music. Just looking at the group’s cheeky smiles is enough to get you moving. Add to that a winning combination of guitar, bass and keyboard and you’re laughing. During one track, Aliou asked us to hold hands with the people next to us. It was beautiful to see every person standing in unity with one another.

Unity through music

This theme of unity through music is central to Songhoy Blues. The group formed in 2012 when they were forced to leave their homes in Northern Mali during the civil conflict and the imposition of Sharia law. According to an article in The Guardian, the group “wanted to recreate that lost ambience of the north and make all the refugees relive those northern songs.” For a band that has toured extensively, Aliou said that London feels like home. This is exactly what we need – to turn the UK into a welcoming place for both local and global musicians. The language of music is much stronger than any other, and this show proved that. No matter where you’re from, you’ll be able to connect with Songhoy Blues. Go on, I dare you.