Gig review: Songhoy Blues, Spiegeltent

Songhoy Blues, a quartet originally from Mali, can boogie with the best of them. Picture: Contributed
Songhoy Blues, a quartet originally from Mali, can boogie with the best of them. Picture: Contributed
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THE festival programme describes the Malian quartet Songhoy Blues as “marginalised in the contemporary world”.

Songhoy Blues

St Andrew Square Spiegeltent, Edinburgh

Star Rating: ****

In fact they manage to sound impressively at home, working up the kind of insistent West African groove which has evolved from native Malian music, via the late Ali Farka Touré’s electric blues fusion, to cook up some sizzling West African boogie of its own.

In fact the band (Songhoy is the name of their particular ethnic group) paid tribute to Ali Farka with what was effectively a Malian slow blues, although much of their gig was powerfully and at times trance-inducingly riff-driven. With minimal explanation of the songs, this can become a bit unremitting unless you’re an unreconstructed bopper with a yard or two of floor space, but, boy, this band can boogie, as numerous numbers, including their single, Al Hassidi Terei, demonstrated, lead guitarist Garba Touré (no relation) coaxing fuzzy howls and moans from his instrument over an insistent bass rumble.

The Spiegeltent’s lack of space didn’t deter some enthusiastic gyrating in the aisles, while amiable, trilby-sporting singer Aliou Touré was something of a dance show in his own right, capering and jittering with an eye-popping grin like a particularly animated Halloween skeleton at a party.

They are, in fact, a band born out of adversity, having fled Islamic extremists who ban all music. All of which made the irrepressible energy of their performance all the more gratifying.