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They Will Have To Kill Us First

Music, one of the most important forms of communication and cultural connection in Mali, was banned in 2012 when Islamic extremist groups rose up to capture the northern section of the country. THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST follows the influential musicians who give their all to surrender anything but their sound.

Director: Johanna Schwartz
Year: 2015
Time: 100 min

 They Will Have to Kill Us First
(2015) on IMDb

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US: JustWatch
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Share this film. Give others the chance to learn from its story.

Read THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST co-writer Andy Morgan’s book on the Malian conflict and its impact on local musicians entitled Music, Culture & Conflict in Mali.

Donate funds to the Music in Exile Fund, which campaigns for musicians living in dangerous conditions and facing censorship to their art.

Support any of the musicians featured in the film by buying their music and sharing their sounds with those around you. Songhoy Blues, Khaira Arby, and Fadimata “Disco” Walett Oumar’s band Tartit are all available on iTunes and at your local independent record store.

Live your passion. Do not compromise in the face of those who try to silence you.

Related Articles and Resources

What’s It Like Being a Singer in Exile?

Is it possible to ban music? Jihadists tried in northern Mali. Radio stations were shut down, mobile phones were destroyed, and playing a guitar would see your hand cut off. August 22, 2012, became the day that music died. Except it didn’t.

Continue reading on Dazed.

Mali’s Songhoy Blues Are Making Music in Exile

“I took their business cards as I hopped out of our car share. Later that day, I downloaded a song by the band called ‘Soubour’. I was blown away.
If Malian guitar great Ali Farka Touré and US bluesman John Lee Hooker had a love child, it would sound like Songhoy Blues.”

Read the full story on PRI


Listen to our playlist with music from the film on Spotify.

Interview With Filmmaker Johanna Schwartz

Watch it on Youtube.


Our interview with Sarah Mosses

Cherif Keita on the History of Malian Music

“Cherif Keita is Professor of French and Francophone Literatures at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He is also an expert on the cultural history of his native Mali. He will soon publish the English version of his book on Mali’s greatest popular singer, Salif Keita. ”

Read the full interview with Cherif Keita.

We Need Music to Survive

One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not value me as a musician…”

Continue reading.

Mali profile – Timeline

A chronology of key events.

Check it out!

Tartit’s Tuareg Women

“As part of the 2013 Caravan for Peace Tour, Tartit was the second Malian group to come through Washington D.C. on July 29th. This post features my interview with them in French — with English subtitles. It was a thrill to see Disco again (Fadimata Walet Omar) after ten years. If you haven’t learned about Tuareg music or women yet, I guarantee you will be enlightened. “


Our interview with Johanna Schwartz

Mali: Three Years After the Music Ban

When the religious music ban in the northern part of Mali was lifted in 2013, Andy Morgan wrote the book ‘Music, Conflict and Culture in Mali’.

Here is his account of what has happened in the country since then.


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