Live Concert Photography: Songhoy Blues with Ghost King at Baby’s All Right 10/24/19
Throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve arguably championed and written about more acts from across the continent of Africa than most other sites — with the overwhelming majority of those acts hailing from the Western African nation of Mali. During that same period of time, Mali has been split apart by armed skirmishes and a bloody civil war between a nubmer of different ethnic groups and factions.
Back in 2012, the Taureg-led National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which also featured support from regional jihadist groups Ansar Dine and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) took control of a huge swath of Northern Mail, declaring the territory they won a new independent nation-state — Azawad. Shortly after, Ansar Dine and AQIM turned on the Tuareg members of the MNLA and forcefully pushed them out. And without much opposition, the jihadists imposed strict sharia law across the region: cigarettes, alcohol, art and music were banned across the region. As a result, many of the region’s musicians and artists, including Songhoy Blues’ founding trio Garba Toure, Aliou Toure and Oumar Toure (no relation, but all Songhoy people) were forced to flee south to Bamako, the country’s capital.
As the members of Songhoy Blues have said, the band was formed “. . . to recreate that lost ambience of the North, and make all the refugees relive those Northern songs.” The band recruited Nathanael Dembélé to compete their lineup, and began playing shows across the Bamako club circuit, attracting both Songhoy and Tuareg fans. Interestingly, by September 2013, Africa Express, a collective of American and European musicians and producers led by Damon Albarn traveled to Bamako to collaborate with local musicians. The members of Songhoy Blues successfully auditioned and were introduced to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, who produced and recorded “Soubour” (which translates into English as “patience”), which appeared on that year’s African Express compilation Maison Des Jeunes.
Following the success of “Soubour,” the band returned to the studio with Zinner and co-producer Marc-Antoine Moreau to record their 2015 full-length debut Music in Exile, which was a commercial and critical success, receiving praise from The Guardian, NME and others, and as a result the band received nominations for “Best New Act” at the Q Awards and “Independent Breakthrough Act” at the AIM Awards. The quartet then opened for Alabama Shakes, Julian Casablancas and Damon Albarn, and played sets at Glastonbury Festival, Bonnaroo Festival, Latitude Festival, Roskilde Festival, Green Man Festival, Byron Bay Bluesfest, WOMADelaide and The Great Escape Festival.
Building upon a growing international profile, the band’s sophomore album, 2017’s Resistance was released to critical praise, with Rolling Stone naming it one of the best albums of that year. Since then, the act has been busy touring, including a stop at Union Pool‘s Summer Thunder last year — and the writing and recording of their recently released EP Meet Me in the City. Now, as you may recall the EP has the acclaimed Malian act collaborating with Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney, Junior Kimbrough and Femi Kuti on what may be the act’s most ambitious and access work to date. While retaining the dexterous and hypnotic guitar work and call and response vocals that’s a blueprint of the Desert Blues, Meet Me in the City finds the band expanding upon their sound with the use of electronics on the EP’s Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney and Songhoy Blues cowritten first single “Time To Go Home,” their first English language song ever.
The members of the acclaimed Malian act recently completed a lengthy Stateside tour to build up buzz and support their recently released EP, and the tour included a stop last week at Baby’s All Right. Brooklyn-based upstart indie act Ghost King opened. Check out photos from the show below.
Opening the night was Brooklyn-based indie rock act Ghost King. Featuring Carter McNeil (vocals, guitar), Noga Davidson (bass), Daniel Sweeney (drums) and Pete Spengeman (guitar), the upstart quartet played an energetic set of material.