fri 04/12/2020

Album: Songhoy Blues - Optimisme | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Songhoy Blues - Optimisme

Album: Songhoy Blues - Optimisme

An unashamedly political album to move hips and feet from the West African superstars

Optimisme: a joy from beginning to end

It’s not hard to understand why so many people in the UK really don’t like political pop and rock music. For one, you only have to look at the clowns who ply their trade in the world of politics, but also so much music that tries to tackle the subject is painfully dull and worthy.

It’s not hard to understand why so many people in the UK really don’t like political pop and rock music. For one, you only have to look at the clowns who ply their trade in the world of politics, but also so much music that tries to tackle the subject is painfully dull and worthy. The Special AKA’s “Free Nelson Mandela” was an obvious exception, but it is very much in a minority.

This does not seem to be the case in West Africa though and artists such as Fela Kuti, his son Femi and even Tinariwen have turned out plenty of this kind of fare without ever sounding dour or boring. Songhoy Blues similarly manage to produce song after song that is resolutely up-tempo, exuberant and loaded with optimism for the future, while giving the political class a thorough kicking. As with their previous albums, Music in Exile and Résistance, the multilingual Optimisme sticks close to this template and is a joy from the first notes of the almost punky “Badala” to the final fade out of the soulful “Kouma”.

The funked-up desert blues of “Assadja” and “Fey Fey” are trippy and hip swinging, while “Gabi” is woozy and psychedelic. “Barre” (which means “change” in the Songhoy language) urges young people to get involved in kicking out the political old guard and bring about the new world to confront the challenges that we all presently face. That’s not to say that the groove laid down by Garba Touré, Aliou Touré, Oumar Touré and Nathanael Dembélé is aimed at anywhere but the dancefloor throughout.

These musical sons of Mali have managed to turn standing up to the powers that be and striving for a better society into a mesmerising and life-affirming experience – and in a world where so much modern music is painfully narcissistic and obsessed with materialism, that is a fine thing.

Songhoy Blues produce song after song that is resolutely up-tempo, exuberant and loaded with optimism

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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