10 New Artists You Need to Know: May 2015

Kyle, Kelsea Ballerini, Songhoy Blues and more

Songhoy Blues
10
4/10

Songhoy Blues

Sounds Like: A churning, loose-limbed garage-rock take on traditional Malian music

For Fans of: Tinariwen, the Black Keys, Amadou & Mariam

Why You Should Pay Attention: In Bamako, Mali's capital, the group's electrified version of the stately desert boogie personified by the late Ali Farka Touré was quickly recognized as the real deal. They appeared on Damon Albarn's Africa Express compilation in 2013 and opened for him at the Royal Albert Hall in London last year. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner co-produced their recent debut album, Music in Exile, whose tough, hypnotic thwack also nods to the vamping guitars and excitable spirit of northern Mali's nomadic Tuareg rebels. The group — Aliou Touré (voice), Garba Touré (guitar), Oumar Touré (bass) and Nathanael Dembélé (drums) — half-joke that they'd never have started a band if three of them hadn't been driven out of their northern Mali hometowns by militant jihadists vehemently opposed to non-religious music. "It's not safe at all to play music," Garba Touré says. "It's quite dangerous."

They Say: "The world has known our country as Mali since independence in 1959," says Touré. "Before that, the Songhai empire extended across Mali, from north to south and east to west. That empire included many different ethnicities, and the Songhai musical tradition includes many different things. We take different parts of that tradition, rhythmically and melodically, and play them on modern instruments like the drum set and electric guitar. But it all comes from traditional Songhai music."

Hear for Yourself: "Al Hassidi Terei" is a grooving critique of selfishness. Richard Gehr

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