Songhoy Blues are the latest sensations from a strong recent tradition of Malian music that includes the evening’s headliners and Ali Farka Toure. Mark our words, with the help of Transgressive Records these four young men are going to be far more widely known.
If there remains some slight prejudice against ‘world music’ in a western contemporary context, then Songhoy Blues won’t suffer from it. Appearing as four lads who just as easily could have emerged from multicultural London, their heritage is apparent through some authentic North African dancing courtesy of frontman Aliou Toure. They play a fantastic 30-minute turn which maintains its quality through a start that appears to have forgotten to turn the bass up. They show an immersive breadth of composition that takes in many a western blues influence, alongside the more typically Malian references. An ever increasing crowd partied impressively, so much so that it would be advised to purchase soon if you want to catch their headline return to the same venue on 24 October.
A lesser outfit than Tinariwen may have been intimidated by such a formidable opening, but the Tuareg legends of Northern African music – still supporting their beautiful Emmaar album of last year – played a perfectly paced 80-minute set, packed with the best songs of their 36-year career. A noticeably appreciative crowd barely stopping dancing from start to finish. Musically, they play a ridiculously accessible version of North African blues which is equally adept at a multitude of tempos. As we reluctantly shuffle out of the nearly full Concorde, we overhear one of the audience say ‘That just made me realise how shit the rest of music is.’ Quite.
Words: James McLarnon
Photo : Alistair Herbert