Some of the most pissed-off protest rock right now is coming from outside the United States. Case in point: Malian band Songhoy Blues have announced their third album, Optimisme, with the ferocious “Badala,” a potent blast of activist rock.
Opening with rapid-fire Kalashnikov drums and a searing guitar lick from the band’s Garba Touré, the song is told — in the group’s native Songhai — from the POV of an oppressed woman. “Badala” translates to “I don’t care,” which the narrator, voiced by singer Aliou Touré, shouts upon breaking free from the patriarchy.
“Show me the way, I will show you the path,” they sing in Songhai, doubling down on a belief that all humans are free to live as they choose. It’s a belief that could have gotten the members killed in northern Mali, the region they fled almost a decade ago after Sharia law was imposed and music banned.
The tension of their plight, and that of the main character in “Badala,” culminates near the compact song’s end (the whole thing clocks in at a very punk 2:44), with Touré ripping into a tight psych-blues guitar solo that’s equal parts Jimmy Page and Tom Morello.
A more coarse translation of “Badala” is “I don’t give a shit.” Songhoy Blues clearly do.
Optimisme arrives October 23rd via Fat Possum Records.
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