Songs We Love: Songhoy Blues, 'Bamako'

Jun 6, 2017
Originally published on April 5, 2018 10:55 am

The opening sights and sounds of the video for "Bamako," a new song from Songhoy Blues' forthcoming album, Résistance, takes you straight into the heart of the capital and largest city of the West African country of Mali. "Bamako" viscerally taps into the rich musical heritage and jubilation of the culture. From barber shops and crowded streets to scenes of fruit vendors, motorcycles cascading through the roads, and dancers getting lost in music and the nightlife, "Bamako" captures a joyous spirit.

Though its members come originally from Timbuktu, Mali, the band formed in the city of Bamako after they were displaced from their homes in 2012 during a civil conflict. They decided to start a band to play music for their fellow refugees, and Songhoy Blues formally released its debut album, Music In Exile, in 2015. The new album, Résistance, builds on the band's musical vocabulary, incorporating elements of soul, R&B and hip-hop, as well as a guest appearance by Iggy Pop.

The video for "Bamako" was directed by Johanna Schwartz, who also directed They Will Have To Kill Us First, a documentary about the band's formation and rise to success. Filmed in the titular city, the video follows the band members around the city until they arrive at the famous Tropicana Bar, where the band had a residency.

About the song, Songhoy Blues' lead vocalist, Aliou Touré, says, "With 'Bamako' we just wanted to write something fun and positive about where we come from. So much of what people hear about Africa is negative; bad news stories about war and famine just dominate the common image of Africa. But this track is about dispelling that image by describing something everyone can relate to — going out on a Saturday night — to show that Africa isn't just what people see in the news. There's so much more to it than that."

As the band plays on stage, with exuberant cheers of "Let's go out," the song oozes with funk. Staccato bursts of horns and heavy chicken-scratch guitars ride a persistent groove celebrating the spirit of the night and of Malians.

Résistance comes out June 16 via Fat Possum.

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