They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile

Director Johanna Schwartz
United Kingdom / 100 min. / 2015 / English, French, Tamashek, Songhoy, Bambara


From the rise to power of Islamic extremists in Mali in 2012 – and the sharia law that followed – all the musicians were exiled. But not silenced. This is the story of Songhoy Blues, Disco & Jimmy, Moussa Sidi and Kharia Arbi, who carried on singing so they wouldn’t die. Their guitars are more powerful than Kalashnikovs.


Since Islamic extremists seized power in northern Mali in 2012, all the musicians have been exiled. But not silenced. This is the story of Songhoy Blues, Disco & Jimmy, Moussa Sidi and Kharia Arbi, who keep on singing, so as not to die. This is a musical rebellion in full force, and not in the Western sense (this would be potentially fatal: defying hard-line Islam). When Gao and Timbuktu fall under sharia (Islamic law), some musicians flee to the capital Bamako, or to the other side of the border with Burkina Faso. In exile, they keep the flame of Malian music alive – a mix of guitar-blues, hypnotic rhythms and desert magnitude – while they feel the weight of separation and   banishment. Songhoy Blues, with his gritty punk-blues, is the most famous in Europe (thanks to Brian Eno and Damon Albarn), but Khaira and Disco – who play for free in Timbuktu, following the Jihadist desertion – or Moussa, whose wife has been imprisoned, are equally moving. Need more proof? Guitars are more powerful than Kalashnikovs.

Entradas BCN

O.V. subtitles in Spanish

Showing format

Best Documentary (Chicago International Festival of Music and Movies).

in festivals
SXSW, HotDocs, CIMMfest, BFI London Film Festival, CPH:Dox.

Songhoy Blues, Khaira Arby, Moussa Sidi, Fadimata "Disco" Walet Oumar.

Johanna Schwartz, Andy Morgan

Andrea Carnevali, Guy Creasey

Karelle Walker

Sound designer
Phitz Hearne

Music Composer
Nick Zinner

Music supervisor
Carmen Montanez Callan

Kat Amara Korba, Sarah Mosses, Johanna Schwartz, John Schwartz

Film company

Film distributor
BBC Worldwide

With the Collaboration:

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