Throughout this site’s nine-plus year history, I’ve written about and championed a number of acts from across Northern Africa — in particular, Mali. During that same period of time,  Mali has been split apart by a bloody civil war between several different factions. In 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azaward (MNLA) took control of Northern Mail; but shortly after, they were pushed out of the region by Ansar Dine, a jihadist group, which quickly imposed sharia law: cigarettes, alcohol and music were banned across the region. And as a result a large number of the country’s acclaimed musicians including Songhoy Blues’ founding trio Garba Toure, Aliou Toure and Oumar Toure (no relation, but all Songhoy people) were forced to relocate 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 has opened for Alabama Shakes, Julian Casablancas and Damon Albarn, and have 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 forthcoming EP Meet Me in the City, which is slated for an October 18, 2019 release.

The effort finds the acclaimed Malian act collaborating with Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney, Junior Kimbrough and Femi Kuti. Interestingly, the EP’s first single, the Will Oldham, Matt Sweeney and Songhoy Blues co-written “Time To Go Home” may be the most electronic-leaning they’ve released to date, it still retains some dexterous and trippy guitar work and the hypnotic grooves of the Desert Blues. And interestingly enough, it finds the band ambitiously desiring to pass the messages at the heart of their material to a much larger, international audience. (There are two different version of the track. One mixed by Grammy-nominated producer Blake Mills and one mixed by David Ferguson.)

Songhoy Blues says, “We’re really happy to introduce this new EP and our English-language debut on the song ‘Time To Go Home.’ Please enjoy it and get ready for a heavy new album coming up very soon.”

Matt Sweeney adds, “I think it’s safe to say that the brave poets of Songhoy Blues have a different idea what a ‘bad day’ is than pretty much all other rock bands. Their music and singing are powerful beyond words. Making a new song with them was a humbling honor and an unforgettable joy.”

On PBS’ American Masters, Will Oldham spoke of working with Songhoy Blyes, saying, “They are a Malian band that’s really trying to make sense of what they’ve been witnessing, what they’ve been experiencing, and create or transmit a message to people about what they’re seeing and how they’re trying to understand it and make change…And to think, well I want them to know that I’m trying to listen and trying to understand, and if I can give voice to some of what they’re experiencing, that they might be emboldened by this musical connection.”

Songhoy Blues will be embarking on a month long Stateside tour that includes two NYC area dates — September 22, 2019 at The Great Green Wall at The United Nations and October 24, 2019 at Baby’s All Right. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

 

Tour Dates

09.21 – Franklin, TN – Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival 2019
09.22 – New York, NY – United Nations | Great Green Wall
09.23 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
09.24 – Birmingham, AL – Saturn
09.26 – Oxford, MS – Proud Larry’s
09.27 – New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jacks
09.28 – Austin, TX – Antone’s
10.01 – El Prado, NM – Taos Mesa Brewing
10.04 – Los Angeles, CA – Moroccan Lounge
10.05 – Berkeley, CA – Cornerstone Berkeley
10.06 – Petaluma, CA – Mystic Theatre
10.09 – Eugene, OR – WOW Hall
10.10 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
10.11 – Seattle, WA – Columbia City Theater
10.12 – Vancouver, BC, Canada – Rickshaw Theatre
10.15 – Boulder, CO – Fox Theatre
10.17 – St. Paul, MN – Turf Club
10.19 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
10.22 – Toronto, ON, Canada – Great Hall
10.24 – Brooklyn, NY – Baby’s All Right
10.25 – Easthampton, MA – New City Brewery
10.26 – Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall
10.27 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstay Yola Performs “It Ain’t Easier” at YouTube Space NYC

Throughout the bulk of this past year, I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Bristol, UK-born, London-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Yola. And as you may recall, the JOVM mainstay’s extraordinary personal life have inspired her Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut Walk Through Fire, which was released   earlier this year through Easy Eye Sound.

2019 has been a breakthrough year for the Bristol-born, London-based singer/songwriter and JOVM mainstay: she made her New York debut earlier this year at Rockwood Music Hall, played an attention-grabbing SXSW set and has opened for Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates, which has included stops at the Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors and Brandi Carlile’s Girls Just Wanna Weekend in Mexico. She played Mavis Staples’ traveling, 80th birthday celebration tour — and made her national TV debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions performing several songs off Walk Through Fire. 

Additionally, the JOVM mainstay performed an intimate set at YouTube Space, which was simultaneously filmed for later distribution across the internet. During that set, she played one of my favorite track off the album, “It Ain’t Easier,” a carefully crafted and earnest love song centered around the concept that love always takes effort and care to survive. 

Lyric Video: JOVM Mainstay El Dusty Teams Up with Tiano Bless on a Sultry Club Banger

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the  Corpus Christi, TX-based JOVM mainstay producer, DJ and electronic music artist, El Dusty. And as you amy recall, the Corpus Christi-born JOVM pioneer has received attention across the blogosphere as a pioneer of a sub-genre he’s dubbed “nu cumbia,” which features elements of hip-hop. drum ‘n’ bass, house music and samples of classic and beloved cumbia songs in a swaggering, genre-defying and club banging take on traditional border music. 

Not only has El Dusty received a a Latin Grammy nomination for his work, he was named on of Rolling Stone‘s 10 New Artists You Need to Know, Billboard‘s New Latin Act and to Watch and was placed on Pandora‘s Latin Artists to Watch. He’s also played at EDC Las Vegas, EDC Mexico, Ciudad Sonido Festival, Fiesta De La Flor, Universal Records‘ Latin Grammy Showcase, Brisk Bodega Tour, the Mad Decent Block Party, Austin City Limits, SXSW, and others.  And adding to a growing profile, the Corpus Christi-born and-based JOVM mainstay released his full-length debut, last year’s Cumbia City, an album that found him pushing his sound and approach in new directions, further revealing why he has quickly become a highly sought-after producer and collaborator. 

Since the release of Cumbia City, El Dusty has been busy producing original music and collaborating with a variety of artists on releases through his independent label Americano Label. His latest single “El Pescador” is a sultry, two-step inducing club banger, centered around thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, a classic cumbia sample that prominently features accordion and Latin percussion and an enormous hook paired with 2012 Rototom Latin contest winner, drummer and vocalist Tiano Bless contributing hip-hop inspired rhymes to the proceedings. 

New Video: Up-and-Coming Italian Shoegazers Solitude in Apathy Release a Surrealistic and Symbolic Visual for “The Other”

Naples, Italy-based indie act Solitude in Apathy — Santina Vasaturo (vocals, bass), Gennaro Cristiano (guitar) and Diego Niola (drums) — formed back in 2016, and since their formation the Italian act has quickly forged a reputation for crafting a sound that meshes elements of shoegaze, dark wave, alt rock and goth. They’ve also opened for internationally acclaimed, Italian shoegazers Stella Diana and Rome in Monochrome. 

Building upon a growing profile in their native Italy and elsewhere, the trio’s Giacomo Salzano-produced, self-titled EP is slated for release this Friday — and the EP’s lead single, the “The Other” will help further cement the up-and-coming Italian trio’s sound: towering layers of fuzzy and distorted guitars, propulsive bass lines, forceful and dramatic and forceful drumming and ethereal vocals drenched in reverb floating over the dreamy mix. In some way, the single strikes me as being like a seamless synthesis of Sixousie and the Banshees and 4AD Records heyday — and unsurprisingly, the song received praise from outlets across the European Union and States, as well as airplay on DKFM. 

Directed by Gaetano Massa, the recently released and incredibly cinematic video for “The Other” is a surrealistic fever dream featuring blindfolded characters walking through an abandoned and dilapidated house, full of rotting books, broken brick and chipped paint. We also see the band performing in another room while all of this is going on. 

New Video: Iceland’s Laura Second Releases a Surreal “120 Minutes”-like Visual for “Crop Circles”

Laura Second is a fairly mysterious multi-national indie rock act based in Iceland. Their forthcoming full-length debut Ending Friendships is slated for a November release through Icelandic indie label Why not? Plötuútgáfa! Records. The album was recorded last winter in a cabin in the Icelandic countryside — and interestingly enough, the album’s first single “Crop Circles” is a decidedly 120 Minutes-era MTV-inspired track: alternating slow-burning and dreamy verses and explosive, power chord-driven choruses. And while seemingly bearing a resemblance to the likes of The Breeders, The Posies, Pixies and others, the song possesses a drunken and uneasy lurch.

The recently released video features two Icelandic children attentively watching a surrealistic TV show on a videocassette player. It’s appropriately bizarre — and much like its accompanying single manages to emphasize the oddness of the song.

Live Footage: Finnish Bluegrass Act Steve ‘n’ Seagulls Covers AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”

Steve ‘n’ Seagulls is a Finnish act, comprised of Irwin Remmel, Pukki Kaalinen, Puikkonen, Hermann and Wild Till Hiltunen that has received attention across Scandinavia and elsewhere for bluegrass-like renditions of well-known metal and hard rock songs, including this amazing cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” which has amassed over 88 million streams on YouTube. Interestingly, much like Gangstagrass, Steve ‘n’ Seagulls make a vital connection between bluegrass and metal and hard rock, reminding listeners that they all essentially come from the same source.