They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian Music In Exile

Johanna Schwartz

Music is one of the most important forms of communication for the people of Mali. But music was banned when Jihad forces took control of the northern part of the country in 2012. Radio stations were destroyed and instruments banned, forcing Malian musicians to go into hiding or flee. Poignant report of their struggle to keep music alive in their country.

The documentary shows Malian musicians that were expelled from the northern part of Mali, ending up in neighbouring countries or in refugee camps. The members of the Songhoy Blues band were discovered by an English talent scout after having fled to the city of Bamako. While touring across Europe, they would actually prefer their music to be played again throughout Mali.

Singer Fadimata ‘Disco’ Walet Oumar was forced to go to Burkina Faso, where she started helping female partners in misfortune who live a refugee camp by singing with them. Despite the precariousness of their situation, the musicians struggle to keep their music alive. The tide seems to turn after the intervention of the French army in the region and the ensuing deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission. Will the banned musicians be able to return to their beloved Timbuktu to play their instruments again?


Johanna Schwartz
Country of production
United Kingdom
100 minutes
Spoken language
Bambara, English, French, Songhoy, Tamashek
Production company
Mojo Musique
World Sales
BBC Worldwide Music