Friday Night with Guitar George: Songhoy Blues


This week’s FNWGG selection came to my attention thanks to my son William, the Music Savant referenced in the August 8, 2014 edition of Guitar George.  Like his father, William is constantly scouring the internet in search of music he has not heard before.  I am usually looking for obscure blues musicians from the past, whereas William lives in the present and looks for musicians who do as well.  One of his favorite sources for heretofore unknown artists is the Tiny Desk Concert series produced by NPR, where his recent discoveries include Frank Turner, who just might be the subject of a future FNWGG, and Songhoy Blues, which is tonight’s featured artist.

The other night, having lost interest in another of a never-ending series of Atlanta Braves games that devolve into dumpster fires, William and I turned our attention to our never-ending series of internet searches for good music.  I found an old Delta bluesman named Hound Dog Taylor and William found Songhoy Blues’ Tiny Desk Concert.  He turned his laptop toward me and said, “Check this out.  Might be Guitar George material.”

As usual, the Music Savant was correct.  As soon as I watched this thirteen-minute, three song set, I decided that Hound Dog Taylor would have to wait—Songhoy Blues went straight to the top of the FNWGG priority list.  Songhoy Blues is a quartet from the West African nation Mali. Their music is a fascinating blend of rock, blues and hip-hop.  The guitarist is indeed Guitar George worthy (check out his Crossroads-meets-Hendrix licks in the third song), the drummer is solid but not intrusive, the bassist plays a wonderful blend of rock and funk elements, and the lead singer is likable and charismatic (check out his banter between the second and third songs).

The title of Songhoy Blues’ debut album is Music in Exile, which calls attention to the fact that many Malian musicians are currently in self-imposed exile because jihadi terrorists have banned western music and are persecuting musicians in Mali, sometimes to the point of savagely maiming their victims.  A recent movie on this subject is named They Will Have to Kill Us First, and a link to a trailer for the movie can be found on the Songhoy Blues website. America has ninety-nine problems; musical freedom ain’t one.  American musicians are free to play what they want, when they want, where they want, without the fear of having their tongue cut out or their arms hacked off.  The freedom to express the human experience through music is one of life’s most precious gifts.  We should never, ever, ever take that for granted.


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