New York City (New York), USA – World Circuit/Nonesuch will release Ali Farka Toure‘s final album, Savane, on July 25. Ali Farka Toure was commonly referred to as “the Bluesman of Africa,” but he disliked the moniker, since it often implied that American blues artists influenced him. Some believe, Toure’s music made clear that the roots of blues and soul music lay in the age-old Malian melodies and rhythms he channeled.
Toure recorded Savane during his protracted battle with bone cancer, a period of intense creativity and artistic commitment. The album-whose title translates to “savannah”-reaffirms his connection with the traditional Songhai and Fulani music of northern Mali perhaps more than any of his previous recordings.
In his trademark fashion, he has transposed to guitar the scratchy rifting of the jeurkel, a one-string lute on which he learned to play music. He is joined by small band of n’goni (African lute) players, including two of his country’s best: Basekou Kouyate and Mama Sissoko, who adapt their Mande (southern Malian) playing to these northern styles. Among the rhythms on Savane are those of the Jimbala spirit cult of the Niger River, through which Toure received his initiation into music years ago.
Less than a month before he died, Toure won his second GRAMMY for his intimate collaboration with the Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, In the Heart of the Moon. That album was an offshoot of Savane, for which Nick Gold and his World Circuit team-including longtime engineer Jerry Boys (Buena Vista Social Club)-constructed a mobile studio in Bamako, Mali’s Hotel Mande, overlooking the Niger River. Work on
Savane was completed in a London studio.
The third and final album from the Hotel Mande Sessions is the debut recording of Diabate’s pan-African Symmetric Orchestra, Boulevard de l’Independance, which World Circuit/Nonesuch will also release July 25. Savane and In the Heart of the Moon culminate a long relationship between Ali Farka Toure and Nick Gold/World Circuit that includes such internationally acclaimed recordings as The Source (1991); Talking Timbuktu (1996), Toure’s GRAMMY-winning collaboration with Ry Cooder; and Niafunke (1999), among other releases.
After Niafunke, Toure had retired from music to devote himself to what he considered his primary vocation: cultivating the land in the Malian town after which that recording was named. He was elected mayor of Niafunke just before the Hotel Mande Sessions began in January 2004.