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Rebel Sounds review

Museums Imperial War Museum , Lambeth Until Sunday January 5 2020
5 out of 5 stars
Rebel Sounds review
Songhoy Blues © A T Morgan

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

This superb exhibition, one of three making up the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Culture Under Attack’ season, focuses on four examples of musical resistance during conflicts.

There’s a movement: the swing and jazz kids of Nazi Germany who opposed Hitler’s rule by listening to and playing jazz, and running underground clubs. A record label: Good Vibrations, set up by Terri Hooley, who championed punk at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland and used its lyrics to critique the political situation. A radio station: Belgrade’s Radio B92 which, despite being regularly banned from the airwaves, fearlessly reported on anti-Milošević protests and adopted Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ as their anthem. And a group: Songhoy Blues, a Malian band formed in resistance to their country’s current regime outlawing music.

This ‘case study’ approach is the first stroke of genius, as this stops it becoming a sprawling mass of under-examined examples. The second is restricting the displayed paraphernalia to two small rooms of photos, record sleeves, video clips and newspaper cuttings, because the point here is sound, not visuals. And the third stroke – the game, set and match winner – works on exactly this principle.

The centrepiece is a room blaring out four tracks on a loop, while short interviews play through headphones. What’s surprising when sitting down to listen is just how moving all this information about humans resisting the idiocy of other humans is (and not just because the bass shakes you through the seating). But maybe that’s because, as Aliou Touré, a member of Songhoy Blues says, ‘A world without music is a body without a soul.’

By: Rosemary Waugh



Venue name: Imperial War Museum
Venue website:
Venue phone: 020 7416 5000
Address: Lambeth Rd
Transport: Tube: Lambeth North
Price: Free
Opening hours: 10am-6pm daily

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