Songhoy Blues at Martyrs’

There’s a serious and sobering story behind the band Songhoy Blues. These four musicians are in a sort of exile — as the title of their 2015 debut album, Music in Exile, suggests — having fled from northern Mali when it fell into violence and extremist rule. The quartet’s music may reflect on that backstory, but it sounds completely infectious and it’s joyful to experience, especially live. When Songhoy Blues played at Martyrs’ on Saturday, April 12, the show started off somewhat subdued, but by the second or third song, the audience was dancing, inspired by singer Aliou Touré’s own jumpy moves. Meanwhile, Garba Touré was playing some rather astounding stuff on his guitar — with touches of American blues and rock guitar solos amid the distinctively African musical motifs. As the concert grew more energetic, Songhoy Blues’ vocalist remarked that it was like a party in Africa. “We have to celebrate life, and we are going to enjoy life tonight,” he said.

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Vanessa Davis Band at North Center Rib Fest

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Later, I caught some of the Coral’s show at Martyrs’. I got there late, just in time to hear the last five songs… enough for me to confirm my memory from SXSW 2003 that they’re a great live band, better than they sound on their studio records. I will have to listen more to the new one. If the Futureheads are the new XTC, these guys are the new Dukes of Stratosphear. (And I mean that in a good way.)