The names may change but the Songhoy remains the same
First heard via various Africa Express projects in the West, including the album Maison des Jeunes, the four-piece Songhoy Blues represent the new, rocking sound of Mali and are surely destined for the same crossover international success as Tinariwen. ‘Soubour’ kicks off proceedings and would not have sounded out of place on Robert Plant’s recent Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar. The production by Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) deliberately gives extra heft to the rocking bass and electric guitars without burying the distinctive tribal rhythm. ‘Al Hassidi Terei’ sounds like Ali Farka Touré at his funkiest – no surprise given that guitarist Garba Touré is the son of Oumar Touré, the long-term percussionist in Ali’s band. But if Ali sounded like the West African cousin of John Lee Hooker, Songhoy Blues sound more like the heirs of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, filtered through the prism of 21st-century Bamako. Their desert blues have been transplanted into a decidedly urban environment, although ‘Petit Métier’ and the heartfelt acoustic lament ‘Mali’ have a gentler lilt. Songhoy Blues are set to become West Africa’s biggest export since Amadou & Mariam.