Song of the Day: Songhoy Blues – Voter

photo by Renata Steiner (view set)

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Voter” by Songhoy Blues from Résistance, out now on Fat Possum Records.

Songhoy Blues – Voter (MP3)

Songhoy Blues know that living without music is like living in a prison. In 2012, when a jihadist militia took over North Mali and banned secular song, the musicians of Songhoy Blues, rather than stay in their hometowns, fled south to Bamako to pursue music. Once there, the band cut their chops playing the music of late Malian guitar legend Ali Farka Touré — and some originals — often for clubs full of other refugees from the north. When Damon Albarn’s Africa Express arrived in Bamako in 2013, the band leapt at the opportunity to play on a track, performing “Soubour” with Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner. The song was an album standout, Albarn invited the band to London to play at the Royal Albert Hall, and Songhoy Blues blew up, opening for Julian Casablancas, Alabama Shakes, and more.

Their new album, Résistance, is a bold step forward for the band, far faster and funkier than their desert blues debut, Music in Exile. Within Résistance’s twelve tracks, there’s everything from chicken scratch guitar to an Iggy Pop guest verse with a line about pizza (mouth-watering, right?). “Voter,” a driving shuffle about political corruption, is equal parts party and protest. The chorus crackles with garage rock intensity, just one notch shy of the psychedelic fervor of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, while the verse showcases the nimble Afrobeat fretwork of guitarist Garba Touré. Singer Aliou Touré (no relation; Touré is a common surname in Mali) cuts through the mix, refusing to participate in a broken system and encouraging others to do the same. One line translates: “As long as they won’t change their system / We won’t vote.” If life without music is like living in a prison, then a song will set you free.

Songhoy Blues bring Résistance to Seattle on October 26th, playing at the Crocodile. You can keep up with the band on their website and Facebook page. Below, enjoy a KEXP-presented performance from the band at the OFF Festival in Poland. Still can’t get enough? Songhoy Blues visited the station in April; Stay tuned for another session with the band.

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