They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian music in exile, is the award-winning documentary telling the personal stories of Malian musicians fighting back against the oppression of Islamist Jihadists who have banned music in the African country. But it is also the defiant Malian response which became the heroic title of Johanna Schwart’s beautiful film.
Hailed by the international press as one of this season’s best documentaries (Guardian, Indiewire,) the sold-out premiere rocked BFI London Film Festival and was followed by a joyous, buoyant after-party at The Electric Carousel London Rah Rah Room London . The documentary follows Malian musician and activists, Songhoy Blues. Khaira Arby. Moussa Sidi. and Fadimata “Disco” Walet Oumar as they fight to get their country, livelihoods and freedom back.
“Disturbing and inspiring…an excellent, important documentary…Masterfully shot and edited. (The Guardian)
In 2012, Islamic extremists took over Northern Mali imposing Sharia law – with their extreme interpretation of the Koran. What came next is incomprehensible to most. Aside from the violence and turbulence of war, music in all its forms was seen as ‘the sound of the Satan’ and banned. Not censored. Banned. Radio stations destroyed, singing in public and private banned. No concerts. If found playing any instrument, harsh, often violent penalties are incurred. For Malians, and in particular, these Malian musicians, music is the lifeblood of their society. Or, as Aliou Touré, the lead vocalist of the Songhoy Blues told the supportive crowds at the after-party last night, being forced to live without music is like ‘having (to live with) bones but no soul’.Utterly impossible to imagine.
The Songhoy Blues now have well-deserved refugee status in the UK. They played an energetic, feet-stomping set of bluesy-Malian rock, igniting solidarity from a supportive crowd – people who, amidst their joyous appreciation, were probably struggling to comprehend the sheer extent of the hardships these talented humans have faced in their young lives. But it was the defiance in each note which resonated most. The fight back begins with the glorious music their oppressors have failed to stop.
Watch the trailer below. The film is out on general release from 23 October.