Ali Farka Touré
Work Circuit Records
The late Ali Farka Touré (1939-2006) was one of the most venerated of West African guitarists. His work combined the musical culture of his home country Mali with that of other African styles, including frequent collaborations that extended his work’s reach. Touré had a belated introduction to First World listeners, via a solo record that came out in the 1980s, when he was in his fifties. By 1994, Taking Timbuktu had won him a Grammy, with more awards to follow, including a Grammy for the posthumous release Ali & Toumani.
When material is released posthumously, it is fair to question the wishes of an artist, who is not there to weigh in on edits, production choices, or song selections. World Circuit Record’s Nick Gold has tried to ameliorate this by producing the record with Ali’s son Vieux Farka Touré. In addition, a longtime collaborator, vocalist Oumou Sangaré, is included on selected songs.
Voyageur’s recordings span fifteen years, and were made in a variety of locations: Timbuktu, West Hollywood, California, concert halls in London and Tokyo, and tiny villages strung out on the Malian riverside. Sangaré’s contributions, notably the single “Cherie,” in which the vocalist and Touré perform a rousing duet, and the quick-syllable riffs of “Sadjona,” are standouts. On the former, singing in octaves with Touré, who also creates a loping polyrhythmic groove and fluent guitar solo, the vocalist provides various inflections distinctive to West African vocal styles. The latter is a showcase of vocalism at its most virtuosic. “Safari” is equally diverting, Touré’s guitar-playing placed front and center, the artist riffing with abandon over background musicians, percussionists prominent among them.
The diversity of recording locations provides a panoply of contexts in which to experience Touré’s music, and he adapts himself to each situation seemingly effortlessly. An excellent place to start, with a catalog of releases to further explore. Recommended.
- Christian Carey