New Desert Blues
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Songhoy Blues is a desert blues music group from Timbuktu, Mali. The band was formed in Bamako after they were forced to leave their homes during the civil conflict and the imposition of Sharia law. The band released their debut album, Music in Exile via Transgressive Records in February 2015, while Julian Casablancas' Cult Records partnered with Atlantic Records to release the album in North America in March 2015. The group is one of the principal subjects of the documentary film They Will Have To Kill Us First.
In 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) took control of the north of Mali. In turn, they were pushed out by Ansar Dine, a jihadist group which banned cigarettes, alcohol and music. Garba Touré, a guitarist from Diré, near Timbuktu, was forced to leave, and moved to Bamako, the country's capital, in the south. Together with Aliou Touré and Oumar Touré, they formed a band "... to recreate that lost ambience of the north and make all the refugees relive those northern songs." The three of them, unrelated despite the same surname, are Songhoy people. The name of the band comes from their ethnicity and the genre of music they play, 'desert blues'.
Songhoy Blues began playing on the Bamako club circuit, attracting both Songhoy and Tuareg fans. In September 2013, Africa Express, a group of American and European musicians and producers led by Damon Albarn, visited Bamako to record an album of collaborations. The band auditioned successfully and were introduced to Nick Zinner, the American guitarist of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They worked with Zinner to record "Soubour," meaning patience. The track was released in December 2013 on Maison Des Jeunes, the 2013 Africa Express compilation.
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