Performance Analysis: Songhoy Blues

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Songhoy Blues are indeed a powerful band, I can attest to this after having experienced this band perform at a live concert. The performance which was dubbed the Songhoy Blues at Slims is a moment that will remain in my mind at least for the next couple of years to come. I got to learn about this concert through a friend who is a great fanatic of the music these group has recorded. I had never heard of this group before attending this concert.

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Name of the performers.

The band is fairly new in the international music because they started playing their music back in 2013 on the Bamako club circuit. In the course of their music kick start, they were able to capture both Tuareg and Songhoy fans. The band is comprised of four lead singers Garba Toure, Aliou Toure, Oumar Toure and Nathanael Dembele. Their country of origin is Bamako in Mali, and the band has continued to inspire their fans through music which revolves around social issues. The group was formed soon after the members of the group were evicted from their homes during the civil wars and conflicts that followed the imposition of the Islamic sharia laws in their country of origin in Timbuktu Mali, it was during their stay in Bamako when the group was conceived.

Location of the performance.

This particular performance took place at Slims in San Francisco (333-11th street). This was the first tour in a series of events organized for their North American tour. It was an event organized in support of their debut Music in Exile. This was part of a bigger activity which was actually to release their first album in the US in partnership with the Casablanca's Cult Records, the release of the album is however scheduled for June this year.

Date of the performance

The bands performance was on 2nd April 2016.

Titles of pieces being performed

The band performed a full set of approximately ten songs from their album titled Music in Exile. Among the music performed I was able to note down some of the titles which include: Soubour, Irganda, Kashmir, Al Hassidi Terei, Petit Metier, Ai Tchere Bele, Desert melodie, Jolie, and Wayei. These songs were performed in the native language of the musicians and at the end of every song they would at least pause and explain the message entailed in each of the songs. The most impressive thing about this performances was the musicality and the vocals at play during the concert. I can describe the experience as a phenomenon. My favorite pieces were Soubour,Irganda, petit metier and wayei.

Musical Forces Employed to Play the Music.

There were several forces employed to play the music which are basically the instruments inspired by the African tunes and characterized by drums, electric guitar and the musicians vocals that blend in harmony. The musical forces employed were unique and unpredictable but they seemed to adhere to what African music is made of. The album has some aspects which generally tend to involve the audience in the different emotional experiences throughout their performance.

The concert started off with a sad mood filling the entire hall, being my first time to attend a concert where people were to perform in a language that is foreign to mine. I did not know what to expect from the group. The concert was scheduled to start at 7:00 PM, by 6:00 PM the hall was packed and everyone, was eagerly awaiting the start of the concert, the atmosphere was calm, and you could only hear a few people speaking. Low music was playing in the background at the time.

7a. Analysis of Soubour.

At exactly 7:30 PM half an hour past the kick off time Aliou Toure stepped onto the stage and in a loud voice shouted, the performance tonight is dedicated to our father Farka Toure who gave us the vision and inspiration to become what we are today. The first song Soubour started in a unique fashion which sounded like a speeded version of the blues from Africa, the music was led by a guitarist from Mali and within a very short time the rhythm of the music had acquired a totally different form.

It was no longer a version of the African blues but rather what could be termed as an exuberant and furious version of the music. This went on for a couple of minutes before the lead singer made the rest of the band pause for a moment and explained to us that the title of the song means patience. The message of the song was that all the refugees around the world should be patient awaiting better times ahead to come. That explained the reason as to why it started off with a calm atmosphere and then transformed to the happy end. It depicts the situation the refugees experience at the start and the bright future ahead.

7b. Analysis of Irganda

The next song was Irganda, this was another carefully crafted piece of art, it was driven by a bass tune accompanied by the bass drum beats which were skillfully being played. The crowd was cheering as the tune beats progressed for a couple of minutes the entry of Omar Toures voice which was fine baritone was noticeable. He sang a few stanzas while the rest of the singers joined him in singing the chorus. The musicality of the song was just unique and nothing I had ever experienced before.

After this performance, Garba Toure clarified to the crowd that despite the fact that three of the group members were sharing a common surname they were not related by blood. The group also had no relationship with Farka Toure, he clarified that they are all related to one another in the sense of musical passion. He also stated that the group affiliates to the man as their father because they appreciate his style which was inventive in nature. Their task and role is to take this inventive style to a whole new dimension which they were already doing at the time. Irganda means our environment he concluded stating that it was the duty of every one of us to make the environment around us habitable where we can all co-exist in harmony and brotherly love.

The group left the stage and the crowd gathered in the hall was accorded a chance to listen to their unreleased song which would feature in their new album. The video for the song soubour was being projected at the front mega screen. It has been shot in the African deserts and the visuals are perfectly done. Despite the fact that I could not understand the message of the song I closely followed the activities that were happening in the video, which depicted the musical journey of the group from performing in the streets of Mali to the big stages in the U.K.

7c. Analysis of Petit Metier

The second session started on a high note with the group coming back on stage in different attire. They were looking neat with three of the members in official clad, the fourth member Oumar had African attire with a headgear which resembled those put on by the Tinariwen which is a group of Tuareg musicians who were the first to win a Grammy award back in 1979. This was perhaps aimed at trying to show how the group has put in efforts to ensure they fuse music from Africa and the western world. Aliou started playing some guitar notes which in no time transformed to some rapid tunes from the individual members each taking time to sing their part. They all seemed gloomy and their message depicted sorrow and sadness their facial expression could tell.

The song playing at this time was titled petit metier' the message behind the sing was that in whichever you find yourself in, you should try as much as you possibly can to make life better and strive to be the best in the field. The vocals at this point were well harmonized with the members taking the time to hit some notes which are very high and went on to hold the high notes for some time. It was an affirmation of the message in the song. Indeed, the group had perfected their art of vocals. The dressing portrayed the message that it does not matter the field you are in you can be the best.

7.d Analysis of Wayei

The group demonstrated a skillful art of dance which entailed vigorous shaking of the shoulders when they got to the final half of the concert. The mood had already transformed to that which was cheerful and from time to time the group engaged the crowd in dancing along to their music as they demonstrated. Dancing was not the only aspect where people were involved in the singing but also in repeating some words in some of the song. This time, the performance of the song being played on stage was "Wayei it means faces, the mood of celebration was aimed at making the diversity of the people within the hall celebrate our differences in a single dance

They played seven songs back to back for a duration of almost an hour. I was able to note that there specific instances when the musicians slowed down. I later got to learn that they only got to do this for those songs which were inspired by material from the Songhai tradition such as the song titled Kashmir.

8. How the Music Affected Me.

The music and general performance by this group affected me in several ways at the end of the concert. My notion concerning what entails good music had already changed I realized that good music is not defined only by the lyrical structure and the understanding of the message. It highly depends on the mode of presentation and the way the vocals and the accompaniments are organized. This was because of the emotion this particular group evoked in me and the crowd I general from time to time. You could tell the theme of the music without getting to hear what was actually being said. The group was decent, presentable and simple in appearance, this in itself made me realize that people are not too concerned in your appearance but rather the content you offer them as a musician.

At the end of the concert the experience from this concert was just phenomenon, I had never been to such a live concert before, where the musicians literally take charge of your emotional state, evoking the sad feelings and within no time making the feelings transform to happy moments filled with energy and so much merry making. The performance made me even develop a thought of traveling to Africa to experience how the natives of Mali actually sing in their ceremonies. This was because this group had brought a different experience of what music is all about from the common genres I am used to. I cannot also forget to state that the experience made me have a better understanding of the diversity the globe is made of in terms of the different categories of people.

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