As far as band backstories go, Songhoy Blues’ is inspiring. The group was formed after three of its members – Oumar Touré, Aliou Touré and Garba Touré (they are unrelated) – fled their homes in the north of Mali when the region was overtaken by radical Islamists. They settled in the capital of Bamako and decided to form a band, recruiting local drummer Nathaniel Dembele, and eventually caught the attention of Marc-Antoine Moreau, manager of Malian duo Amadou & Mariam.
The sound is an homage to their displaced people, the Songhai, and draws from the riches of their culture’s tradition and dance. At the same time, their influences include contemporary hip hop, rock & roll and West African guitar heroes such as as Baba Salah and Ali Farka Touré, combining with traditional sounds in a soulful collision of cultures. Hear their debut album Music in Exile, produced by Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, live at Apolo .