Aliou Touré: 'I want people to take as much as they possibly can from our music'

Aliou Touré: 'I want people to take as much as they possibly can from our music'

Ahead of headlining The Great Western, Malian desert blues collective Songhoy Blues talk about forging connections and the importance of politics to their music

Songhoy Blues are a band on a mission. Formed in the aftermath of civil conflict in their native Mali, they feel duty bound to tell the world about their struggle and the rich culture that propels them forwards. It's a journey that has taken them around the globe, and when we finally track down the group's Aliou Touré, they're somewhere in New Mexico travelling to their next show.

'You know, it's always joyful for us to be onstage,' he beams. 'If you can do that forever, we'd be more than happy to do it.' Music for Songhoy Blues is a means of bringing people together, of smashing down boundaries and having an incredible time while doing it. 'Music is the best love we share together,' he insists. 'The language and the culture doesn't matter – it's just the feeling people get and the love we share with them which is most important. We are proud to see people across the world jumping on our music.'

With two stunning studio albums under their collective belts, Songhoy Blues recently unveiled their brand new EP 'Meet Me In The City', boasting an exceptional cover of Fela Kuti's uncompromising afrobeat statement 'Shakara'. For this band of Malian migrants, politics and music are naturally intertwined. 'We are a band that is fighting against what is going on in Africa – all the political corruption,' Aliou states. 'People fall in love with our music and most of them ask us about the meaning, the lyrics, the background story. We feel responsible for that, to write something that they can understand. Then we can entertain each other, and they can know the feeling, the background message behind our music.' It's a radical message, he adds, one perhaps driven out of the political arena: 'So, what about putting the message through the art, or the culture?'

The band toasted the recent release while staying in Mississippi, a site key to the emergence of the blues. Indeed, the new EP contains a Junior Kimbrough cover, a nod towards their American cousins that connects the blues to its African origins. 'When you hear that, you straight away realise the link between the blues and the music we play,' he says. 'Literally, when we hear that blues from Mississippi, we hear ourselves straight away inside it.'

Currently making plans to get back into the studio, Songboy Blues are relishing the opportunity to take their stunning live show to new crowds and new faces. It's an overwhelming cavalcade of ideas, utilising the deep roots of Malian culture in a startlingly new way. 'Every time people come to a concert venue they listen to it, and they hear it, and they enjoy it from a different angle. Some of them hear the message, some of them are interested about the energy and the groove, and some of them are interested about the melody. I want people to take as much as they possibly can from our music.'

Continually touring, Songhoy Blues touch down in Glasgow for The Great Western festival in November – it's a city they know well and the thought of returning to Scotland is a tantalising one for many reasons. 'The pipes!' he beams. 'I love that instrument!'

Indeed, Songhoy Blues are living proof of music's eternal power to forge connections. 'The journey is all about that,' he comments. 'For us, the journey is much more important than the objective. When you travel you find those links between cultures and the links between human beings. We're all the same.'

The Great Western, various venues, Glasgow, Sat 23 Nov,

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information displayed here is accurate, always check with the venue before attending (especially during the Covid-19 pandemic).

The Great Western

Multi-venue arts and music festival, showcasing a range of local and international talent across venues in Glasgow's West End.

Various venues: Glasgow

Sat 13 Nov


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