Day 2 of the #mayvinylchallenge asks for your newest discovery, and for me that would be the driving blend of Afrobeat and rock from Mali band Songhoy Blues. I’ve been drawn to the incredible music coming out of Africa – particularly the funk and rock from the 70s – for a while now, and after hearing about the band from Henry Rollins in his latest Stay Fanatic! volume I sought out something from the band and grabbed their second album, Résistance. Afrobeat, rock, blues, some horn-driven funk all smashed together? Yes, please…
The album opens with “Voter” and even if you can’t understand the language, you can immediately feel the sudden jump from the African funk rhythms shift into a powerhouse rock riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Queens of the Stone Age album. It drives home the conflict the band was born out of. Per the back of the album cover:
Songhoy Blues has always been about resistance. We started the group during civil war, in the face of a music ban, to create something positive out of adversity. As long as we have music left in us and something to say, we’ll keep fighting each day with music as our weapon, our songs as our resistance.
That resistance is part of every riff, every rhythmic pulse of the songs. There’s always been something magic about the bass and percussion work in Afrobeat to move you a certain way, and the way tracks like “Bamako” or “Ir Ma Sobay” meet the traditional with the decidedly rock and roll kick of horns or searing leads create a vibe greater than the sum of its parts. “Sahara” features the slithering granddaddy of rock Iggy Pop on vocals and if that wasn’t an match made in heaven, I don’t know what is.
There’s also a distinct difference in how Songhoy Blues incorporates rock into their music as opposed to someone like Mdou Moctar – where Moctar and his band bury the frenzy of rock and guitar pyrotechnics into a very African sound, Songhoy Blues create something where the individual parts stand out and are more identifiable. Far from being a compromise, it works to make the disparate elements pushed that much further into your face. I’ve only just started getting into the band, but based on what I hear I suspect I’ll be digging deeper both into Résistance and the band’s other records sooner rather than later.