Music is supposed to transcend language, and when a fat beat hits the ear, it shouldn’t matter if you understand the words as long as you feel the message. Songhoy Blues is exactly that – while I didn’t understand one word of their native language, the message was loud and clear, music is love, music is life.
Opening up the show on a darkened stage, was 2/3rds of the NYC post-rock-noise band ZS. Consisting of Greg Fox on percussion and Sam Hillmer on the Sax, they ripped through a quick set of some avant-guarde acid-jazz. Calling themselves Diamond Guardian Diffusion, the duo was furious in their delivery and hit their stride with the third song, highlighted by a fog-horn-like sax and intricate drumming which ended in a lighting-quick crescendo of pure noise.
By the time Songhoy Blues took to the stage, the room was nearly full and ready to dance along to some inspiring “desert-rock” music. Originally hailing from the desert city of Timbuktu, in Mali, Africa – the band re-located to Bamako after they were forced to leave their homes during the civil conflict and the imposition of Sharia Law.
The music that the four-piece band produces is essentially rock, but there’s strong accents of hip-hop and the blues, which in turn, is impossible not to dance to. Lead Singer, Aliou Touré, danced around the stage like he was on fire, but with an unmistakable smile that was infectious. Lead guitarist, Garba Touré, was unlike many western style players we see and his dexterous fingers shimmied up and down his Gibson’s neck with lightning quick precision. The four piece rounded out with Nathanael Dembélé on the drums and was paired with Oumar Touré on the bass that made a powerhouse of a rhythm section.
Songhoy Blues plays music because they have to, they play for their homeland, they play for their freedom, they perform with such zest and love, that it’s easy to see why they are growing in popularity despite language and culture. As Aliou Touré eloquently said near the end of the show – “They would have to kill us for the music to stop, music is life,” in reference to being exiled from there homes and why everyday you’re alive, is a good day.
Article: Shayne Hanley