For a brief moment in time, Hove was treated to an outpouring of positive energy, world class musicianship and an abundance of charisma, with a healthy dose of politics thrown in for good measure. Even if you’d not heard of Songhoy Blues before this gig, it’s not a performance you’ll forget in a hurry.
The rockers from Mali, who expertly blend traditional Sub-Saharan and western rock music, certainly understood how to incite a party atmosphere, with frontman Aliou Touré leading the way with some of the most enthusiastic crowd engagement we’ve seen. There are some bands who are happy to have only minimal interaction with their fans and others who seem to have little respect for their audience, yet neither is the case with Songhoy Blues. Singer Aliou engaged constantly with the audience throughout the show, teaching the crowd his enthusiastic and exuberant dance moves along the way.
Songhoy Blues frequently spoke words brimming with love and wisdom and tales about life back home in Mali. They were very keen to stress to us that the Sahara is not how it is portrayed on the TV, as they treated us to the fantastic ‘Sahara’ off of their new album ‘Résistance’, albeit without the presence of Iggy Pop.
The audience responded enthusiastically as they joined in with all the dance moves, yet no one in the crowd could quite keep up with the frontman, whose singing was nearly a match for the happy energy of his dancing.
There was a great response to what Songhoy Blues had to say on the topics of politics, life and the history of the band which came with an open invitation for everyone to come down to Bamako. Similarly well received were Touré’s comments that everyone should be able to feel at home in every city which preceded him quoting the traditional African proverb: “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something”.
The music involved a mixture of catchy riffs and funky jams. It created a true party atmosphere, with the quality of the musicianship being absolutely sublime in all departments – from the guitar solos to the funky bass and superb drumming. This is a band knows how to have fun at the same time as captivating us with world-class instrumental skills.
This felt like music in its purest form, with the show brimming with positive energy and great tunes. That the band were so humble and down-to-earth gave the event a warm and all-inclusive vibe. Even though most of the songs weren’t sung in English, it never felt like there was a language barrier because everyone could speak the language of music that day. Somehow, we really got a feel of what the songs were all about.
As if they hadn’t won us over already, the band announced that they wished that they could play for three or four hours like they used to in Mali and made jokes about having many after parties instead and offering everyone to meet them afterwards. This is surely one of the warmest bands we’ve had the privilege to witness and one of the most entertaining by far.
Songhoy Blues, The Old Market, Monday 27th November 2017
Words by Jack Moore
Photo by Jon Southcoasting