Songhoy Blues 'Al Hassidi Terei' from Gallivant Film on Vimeo.
In Spring 2012 waves of militant rebel groups overran northern Mali and Timbuktu. Eventually an extremist group named Ansar Dine (followers of the faith) took control and banned smoking, alcohol and playing music. The armed rebels imposed their own hardline version of Sharia law and drove music underground, the penalties for playing or even just listening to music on your mobile phone were a public whipping, a stint in an overcrowded jail or worse. Thousands fled south including many musicians.
In the city of Bamako a group of musician friends decided they couldn't succumb to the crisis and had to form a band, if for no other reason than to boost the morale of other refugees in the same situation. "We wanted to recreate that lost ambience of the north and make all the refugees relive those northern songs."
Songhoy Blues were born.
Songhoy Blues will be appearing in an eagerly anticipated new film documenting Malian musicians’ fight with the extremist forces that have seen music banned in much of the country. They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian Music In Exile. Here's the trailer.....
And from that beginning they got noticed by the Africa Express project and then here they are in 2015 playing live on British TV on Later with Jools Holland. What a journey!
"There we were living in the north, we were told that if we played music we could get our hands chopped off. Then we arrived in Bamako, in a state of emergency. We had to go to the ministry of the interior to ask for permission to play. But then, by the grace of God, the atmosphere returned. Africa Express came and we were invited to play in London. Really and truly, it's an explosive joy for us, an explosive joy! We can't even begin to explain that joy."
Get yourself the album Music in Exile. Go on, it's brilliant.