Music is the beating heart of Malian culture, but when Islamic jihadists took control of northern Mali in 2012, they enforced one of the harshest interpretations of sharia law in history: they banned all forms of music. Radio stations were destroyed, instruments burned and Mali’s revered musicians faced torture, even death. Overnight, they were forced into hiding or exile where most remain, even now. But rather than lay down their instruments, the musicians are fighting back, standing up for their cultural heritage and identity. Throughout their struggle, they have used music as their weapon against ongoing violence that has left Mali ravaged.
They Will Have To Kill Us First begins with musicians on the run, reveals rare footage of the jihadists, captures life at refugee camps, follows perilous journeys home to battle scarred cities, and witnesses our two female characters perform at the first public concert in Timbuktu since the music ban. The stories of these artists are told without gloss – they are sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes inspirational, and sometimes incredibly frustrating as we watch musicians make tough choices about their futures.
With a specially commissioned score by Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeah’s) and a soundtrack from some of Mali’s most exciting artists including Khaira Arby, Fadimata “Disco” Walet Oumar, Malian superstar Amkoullel, Moussa Sidi and Songhoy Blues, They Will Have To Kill Us First leaps headfirst into a tale of courage in the face of conflict.
“Essential viewing” (Dazed & Confused)