Songhoy Blues - EartH, Hackney, London - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Songhoy Blues - EartH, Hackney, London

by charles filtness Rating: Release Date:
Songhoy Blues - EartH, Hackney, London
Songhoy Blues - EartH, Hackney, London

Songhoy Blues are a 4 piece from Mali, they play a style of music known as Desert Blues which judging by tonight’s performance might alternatively be described as upbeat African guitar music with the main intention of getting the party going and everybody dancing and smiling. 

This is something they certainly do well, but as with all great artists they operate on more than one level.  Their lyrics are also full of social conscience and political comment, there is a message beyond the good-time vibe they create.  They mostly sing in their native Songhai language and talk between songs in English.  Lead singer Aliou Toure tells us he is an ambassador for Water Aid and reminds us how lucky most of us are; “we have a bar at the back, ..we can have whatever we like, ..when there are many in the world who do not even have clean water”.  There are people collecting for the charity here tonight too. 

Their big break came in 2013 when they were included on Damon Albarn’s Africa Express compilation album.  Since then they have released their 2015 debut and its follow up in 2017. Tonight’s set is almost exclusively taken from those two albums, new music will be on the way soon apparently. 

They are playing the sold out EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney). There is a large part of the crowd who are undeniably ecstatic, from the start they encourage participation; it’s hard not to be completely taken in by this.  Everybody at the front is on their feet, they boogie and groove along throughout.  As the set progresses more and more people succumb, it’s a contagious atmosphere that has me smiling just thinking back.  Aliou Toure is a natural, he puts his all into the performance; he plays guitar on some tracks but mostly just sings giving him the opportunity to dance around the stage to varying degrees of excitation. The rest of the band are also fantastic, drums, bass, and lead guitar are all that is needed plus one energetic front man. Only one song, 'Ai Dou' really slows the tempo down, it is one of the many highlights of the set and further reveals what a fantastic vocalist Aliou is.  They end with three big tunes from their debut ‘Music in Exile’ leaving us all happy and wholly invigorated.

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