Too often when we hear “it must be something in the blood” it conjures up images of someone gone wrong somewhere, but nothing could be further from that kind of assumption when we’re talking about Mali’s Vieux Farka Toure.
Son of the musical powerhouse Ali Farka Toure, Vieux Farka Toure has not just continued in his father’s musical footsteps but blazed a path of his own with recordings like Vieux Farka Toure, Fondo, The Secret, Mon Pays and Touristes with Julia Easterlin and an ongoing collaboration with Israeli musician Idan Raichel on the Toure-Raichel Collective. And the righteous riffs just keep coming with the Six Degrees Records release of his latest of Samba.
Mr. Toure is just content to rest on his vocals and guitar playing laurels on Samba; instead he composed and arranged all the tracks and produced this latest with co-producer Eric Herman. Mr. Toure explains the recording process of Samba, “It was not a regular studio session nor was it a concert. It was somewhere in between. We were recording the album, but we had an audience of about fifty people in the room with us. The audience understood it was to witness the process of recording an album, not to present a concert in a studio, which was a very good thing because we got the energy of a live concert with the quality of a studio recording.”
Rich, warm and rewarding, Samba pulls at the threads of desert blues, funk, reggae, rock and Malian praise song to create a polished, masterful collection of tracks. From the opening of the guitar lick laced “Bonheur” through to the deliciously catchy “Ni Negaba,” Mr. Toure lets his listeners ride a wave of hypnotic grooves while using his musical voice to express the joys of family, the importance of protecting the environment and the pitfalls of religious fanaticism in the wake of Mali’s recent struggles with jihadism where music was banned and musicians were abused or exiled.
Backed by such musicians as drummer Mamadou Kone, calabash player Soulemane Kane, ngoni players Maffa Diabate and Abdoulaye Kone, bassists Marshall Henry, Eric Herman and Checikmare Ba, shaker and kourignans player Tim Keiper and organist and keyboardist Rob Cohen, Mr. Toure gives listeners a delicious ride on sizzling tracks like “Ba Kaitere” and “Homafu Wawa,” and doles out delectable treats like the guitar and ngoni enfused “Samba Si Kairi” and the cool grooves of “Nature.” Fans get a dose of guest keyboardist Idan Raichel on the track “Mariam,” a track dedicated to Mr. Toure’s little sister, and the delightfully elegant track “Maya.”
Despite some doubts about the success of Samba, Mr. Toure says of the experience, “It was an interesting idea but I did not know how it would go. Luckily everything was perfect. There was a great ambience there for the session and we were able to capture this unique energy for the album.”
Mr. Toure has certainly blazed his own path on Mali’s musical griot road of riches with Samba. Must be something in the blood.
Mamadou Kelly – Politiki (Clermont Music CLE 016CD, 2017)
Superb Malian guitarist Mamadou Kelly skillfully combines Saharan desert blues with American blues on Politiki.
In addition to his regular band, BanKaiNa, Mamadou Kelly invited American musicians such as award-winning steel guitar master Cindy Cashdollar, Susie Ibarra on drums, Jake Silver on bass, and Dan Littleton on guitars.
Politiki is a remarkable combination of West African and American blues genres featuring outstanding guitar work.
Acclaimed Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré will be touring the United States April-May 2017. The tour begins at Brooklyn New York’s BRIC House on Thursday, April 6th, coinciding with the official release of Samba (Six Degrees Records), Vieux Farka Touré’s new album.
Samba was recorded as part of the Woodstock Sessions, a series that combines live performance and studio recording with their ground-breaking venue.
While Touré was recording the album, he had an audience of about fifty people in the room. Touré received the vigor of a live concert with the quality of a studio recording. Touré was very satisfied with the experience, “we were able to capture this unique energy for the album.”
Vieux Farka Touré Spring 2017 Tour Dates:
4/6: BRIC House, Brooklyn, NY
4/7: Villa Victoria, Boston, MA
4/8: The Outdoor Space, Hamden, CT
4/10: World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, PA
4/11: Club Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA
4/12: Creative Alliance, Baltimore, MA
4/13: The Mothlight, Asheville, NC
4/14: King’s, Raleigh, NC
4/15: Charleston Pour House, Charleston, SC
4/18: Proud Larry’s Oxford, MI
4/19: Terminal West, Atlanta, CA
4/22: Transatlantic, Miami Beach, FL
4/24: Casbah, San Diego, CA
4/25: Echoplex, Los Angeles, CA
4/26: Yoshi’s, Oakland, CA
4/28: Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz, CA
4/29: Grass Valley Center for the Arts, Grass Valley, CA
4/30: Ner Shalom, Cotati, CA
5/03: Nectar Seattle, WA
5/04: Star Theater, Portland, OR
5/05: Wild Buffalo, Bellingham, WA
5/07: Neurolux, Boise, ID
5/09: State Room, Salt Lake City, IA
Sitting back and listening to the latest recording Kidal by Mali’s desert blues/rock group Tamikrest, I wondered if I would have even heard about the continuing struggles of the Tuareg and other desert peoples if it weren’t for the lush music spilling out of the Sahara by way of groups like Tamikrest and other musician groups like Terakaft, Tinariwen and Etran Finatawa or the powerful Sahrawi singer and musician Mariem Hassan. Sadly, I think few would even know that people live and travel these remote parts of the Sahara much less know about the struggle to maintain their nomadic identity if it weren’t for the music.
Fortunately for us Glitterbeat Records has got all the little music junkies out there covered with Tamikrest and their latest Kidal set for release on March 17th. Following up on previous recordings Adagh, Toumastin, Chatma and Taksera, Tamikrest again wraps up listeners in the familiar sleek guitars, rolling rhythms and meaty vocals on Kidal.
Recorded in Bamako, Mali, Kidal gets some extra special treatment with producer Mark Mulholland from Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra and mixer David Odlum who earned a Grammy for his work with the group Tinariwen. Two years in the making, Kidal is worth every single track.
Tamikrest leader Ousmane Ag Mossa says of the recording, “Kidal talks about dignity. We consider the desert as an area of freedom to live in. But many people consider it as just a market to sell multinational companies, and for me, that is a major threat to the survival of our nomadic people.”
Opening with those familiar desert blues riffs on “Mawarniha Tartit,” Tamikrest lays down a sound that’s hypnotic and driven. Packed with guitar, percussion and drums, Kidal kicks some serious rock riffs. Tracks like “Manhouy Inerizhan,” “War Toyed” and “War Tila Eridaran” are brilliantly fiery, but its tracks like slower and bluesy “Atwitas” that blow the listener away with its sleek, edgy guitar, laced in kora lines and roughed over vocals.
Kidal is chocked full of goodies like the acoustic guitar led “Tanakra,” the fabulously trippy and immensely satisfying “Ehad Wad Nadorhan” and the folksy, homey “Erres Hin Atouan” with its call and response vocals. There’s also the rocking “Adoutat Salilagh” and the sweetly worked closing track “Adad Osan Itibat” to satisfy all your desert blues/rock needs.
Kidal is power to the people through music and it doesn’t get any better than that.
Malian desert blues band Tinariwen has released a video advance of ‘Sastanàqqàm,’ the first single from the band’s upcoming new album, Elwan, scheduled for release released on February 10th 2017 on Wedge.
In 2014, Tinariwen stopped at Rancho de la Luna studios in the desert of California’s Joshua Tree National Park. Guitarist Matt Sweeny, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kurt Vile, musician and vocalist Alan Johannes recorded sessions with the Malian band, engineered by Andrew Schepps, who has worked with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Johnny Cash, and Jay Z.
Two years later in M’Hamid El Ghizlane, an oasis in southern Morocco, near the Algerian frontier, Tinariwen set up their tents to record, accompanied by the local musical youth and a Ganga ensemble of Gnawa musicians.
Malian guitar maestro Vieux Farka Touré is set to perform Saturday, October 1, 2016 at (Le) Poisson Rouge. This concert will mark the beginning of the World Music Institute’s Desert Blues concert series.
Vieux Farka Touré is the son of legendary Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré, the artist mainly responsible for introducing Africa’s desert blues tradition to audiences around the world.
Ali Farka Toure was born in 1939 in Gourmararusse (in the Timbuktu region), Mali, into the noble Sorhai family. Being of noble birth, he should never have taken up music. His family disapproved because the musician profession is normally inherited in Malian society and the right to play belongs to the musician families. However, being a man of determination and independence, once he decided to take up music, there was no stopping him.
Ali Farka Toure took up the guitar at the age of ten, but it wasn’t until about age 17 that he really got a handle on the instrument. In 1950 he began playing the gurkel, a single string African guitar that he chose because of its power to draw out the spirits. He also taught himself the njarka, a single string fiddle that was a popular part of his performances.
Then in 1956, Ali Farka Toure saw a performance by the great Guinean guitarist Keita Fodeba in Bamako. He was so moved that he decided then and there to become a guitarist. Teaching himself, Alila Farka Toure adapted traditional songs using the techniques he had learned on the gurkel.
During a visit to Bamako in the late 1960’s, artists such as Ray Charles, Otis Redding and most importantly John Lee Hooker introduced Ali Farka Toure to African-American music. At first, he thought that Hooker was playing Malian music, but then realized that this music coming from the United States of America had deep African roots.
Ali Farka Toure was also inspired by Hooker’s strength as a performer and began to incorporate elements into his own playing. During those years Ali Farka Toure composed, sang and performed with the famous Troupe 117, a group created by the Malian government after the country’s independence.
Ali Farka Toure trained as a sound engineer, a profession he practiced until 1980, when he had saved enough money to become a farmer, which is what he was until he died.
His recording career began in France in 1976, but that phase ended poorly, as Toure was never properly compensated. For years he followed a successful career in West Africa adapting traditional songs and rhythms in ten languages from Mali’s enormous cultural wealth. This career was combined with a life rooted in his village. While touring widely in Africa and also occasionally in Europe and the United States of America, Toure preferred the security of his village life, family and friends, crops and livestock
In 1990, Toure abandoned music in order to tend to his farm, in his native Timbuktu. His producer managed to convince him otherwise and to return to his guitar. Two years later, he recorded the famous CD Talking Timbuktu with American guitarist Ry Cooder. The album won a Grammy award.
Radio Mali was Ali Farka Toure’s first release after 1994’s Grammy Award–winning collaboration with Ry Cooder, Talking Timbuktu. Released in Europe by World Circuit in 1996, it is a lavishly packaged collection of vintage recordings made throughout the 1970s.
Despite the success with Talking Timbuktu, Ali Farka Toure wasn’t willing to leave his rice farm in Mali to record an album. Producer Nick Gold had to set up the equipment in an abandoned brick hall in Niafunke, Mali, using portable equipment and gasoline generators to compensate for the fact that Toure’s hometown had no power lines.
The crew had to wait till Farka Toure was done with his chores and ready to play the guitar. Farka Toure said: ”We were in the middle of the landscape which inspired the music and that in turn inspired myself and the musicians. . . . In the West, perhaps this music is just entertainment and I don’t expect people to understand.”
In 2004, Ali Farka Toure was elected mayor of his home town of Niafunke. Ali was extremely loyal to his homeland and spent most of his time in the area, working on his farm. Ali’s key election promised to his constituents included tackling the malaria problem, cleaning up the region, and establishing a tree planting project.
In July of 2004, Nick Gold took his World Circuit team and their longtime engineering collaborator Jerry Boys (Buena Vista Social Club) to Bamako, Mali to record In the Heart of the Moon, a collaboration between Ali Farka Toure and another giant of Malian music, kora master Toumani Diabate.
The World Circuit crew set up a mobile studio in the Hotel Mande in Bamako, overlooking the Niger River and recorded In the Heart of the Moon there in three two-hour sessions. Drawing on a body of traditional songs familiar to both men, Toure and Diabate again began without rehearsing together beforehand. Only one song required a second take-because it had been interrupted by a rainstorm.
In the Heart of the Moon was the first of a trilogy of albums Nick Gold’s label recorded at the Hotel Mande. The record also includes subtle contributions from Ry Cooder on piano and guitar; Sekou Kante and Cachaito Lopez on bass; and Joachim Cooder and Olalekan Babalola on percussion. In the Heart of the Moon won a world music Grammy in 2005.
Red and Green, released in 2005 is a double disc that collects essential vintage recordings from Ali Farka Toure, most of which were previously vinyl-only classic tracks. The Red album is the set that launched Ali’s career in the West; the Green album confirmed his status as one of Africa’s most important artists. Both albums are included complete and digitally remastered from the original tapes.
Touré recorded his last album, Savane, during his battle with bone cancer. The album, whose title translates to ‘savannah,’ reaffirms his connection with the traditional Songhai and Fulani music of northern Mali. He was joined by a small band of ngoni players, including two of his country’s best: Bassekou Kouyate and Mama Sissoko, who adapted their Mandé (southern Malian) playing to these northern styles.
Ali Farka Toure died March 7, 2006, from bone cancer. That year, World Circuit/Nonesuch released Savane.
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of his death, Ali Farka Touré was celebrated in his native Mali with a series of events over the week-end of March 5th, 2016. The events included an all-star concert in Bamako featuring Mali’s great stars, the final of a football (soccer) tournament in his honor (Touré was a huge football fan), the laying of the foundation stone for Rue Ali Farka Touré, an exhibition at the National Museum and various other events.
Ali Farka Toure’s legacy continues in the talented hands of his son, masterful guitarist Vieux Farka Toure.
Azel, the new album by Nigerien guitarist, singer-songwriter and composer Bombino has reached the top of the Transglobal World Music Chart in May 2016.
May 2016 Chart
1. Bombino – Azel (Partisan Records)
2. Aziza Brahim – Abbar el Hamada (Glitterbeat Records)
3. Rokia Traoré – Né So (Nonesuch Records)
4. La Banda Morisca – Algarabya (Fol Música)
5. Konono Nº1 meets Batida – Konono Nº1 meets Batida (Crammed Discs)
6. Lakou Mizik – Wa Di Yo (Cumbancha)
7. Fanfare Ciocărlia – Onwards to Mars! (Asphalt Tango Records)
8. The Gloaming – 2 (Real World Records)
9. Stefano Saletti & Banda Ikona – Soundcity – Finisterre
10. Katerina Tsiridou – Aman Katerina: A Tribute to Panayiotis Toundas (Protasis Music)
11. Sociedade Recreativa – Sociedade Recreativa (La Chaudière Production / Jarring Effects)
12. Damir Imamović’s Sevdah Takht – Dvojka (Glitterbeat Records)
13. V.A. – Every Song Has its End: Sonic Dispatches from Traditional Mali (Glitterbeat Records)
14. Las Hermanas Caronni – Navega Mundos (Les Grands Fleuves)
15. Anoushka Shankar – Land of Gold (Deutsche Grammophon)
16. DagaDana – Meridian 68 (Karrot Kommando)
17. Sidestepper – Supenatural Love (Real World Records)
18. Elza Soares – The Woman at the End of the World / A Mulher do Fim do Mundo (Mais Um Discos)
19. Karsh Kale – Up (Six Degrees Records)
20. Päre – Hausjärvi Beat (Zebo Records)
21. 2016: Afro Celt Sound System – The Source (ECC Records)
22. Pedro Soler & Gaspar Claus – Al Viento (InFiné)
23. Pulsar Trio – Cäthes traum (T3 Records)
24. Filippo Gambetta – Otto Baffi (Filippo Gambetta)
25. Eva Salina – Lema Lema: Eva Salina Sings Šaban Bajramović (Vogiton Records)
26. Manuel Volpe & Rhabdomantic Orchestra – Albore (Agogo Records)
27. Zulya and the Children of the Underground – On Love and Science (Zulya and the Children of the Underground)
28. Amsterdam Klezmer Band – Oyoyoy (Amsterdam Klezmer Band)
29. Vesevo – Vesevo (Agualoca Records)
30. Michael Messer’s Mitra – Call of the Blues (Knife Edge Records)
31. Osei Korankye – Seperewa of Ghana: Ɛmmerɛ nyina nsɛ (Akwaaba Music)
32. Vigüela – Temperamento (ARC Music)
33. Ex aequo:
Josemi Carmona & Javier Colina – De Cerca (Universal Music Spain)
Galandum Galundaina – Quatrada (Açor)
35. Claudia Aurora – Mulher do Norte (Red Orange Recordings)
36. Joseph Tawadros – World Music (Joseph Tawadros)
37. Rocky Marsiano – Meu Kamba Vol. Dois (Akwaaba Music)
38. Kimi Djabaté – Kanamalu (Red Orange Recordings)
39. Seheno – Hazo Kely (Lokanga)
40. Afenginn – Opus (Tutl / Westpark Music)
Western Saharan musician and activist Aziza Brahim explains, “I’m not able to separate politics, cultural and personal concerns. So, the focus of my music is all of these areas at the same time. Political, because of its commitment to the denunciation of social injustice. Cultural, because it searches for new musical ideas. Personal, because it expresses the worries of a person that aspires to live with dignity in a better world.”
For Ms. Brahim taking on the issues of today’s refugee crisis is both personal, having been raised in a Saharawi refugee camp in the Algerian desert and a fuel for the creative process for her latest recording Abbar el Hamada or Across the Hamada, out on the Glitterbeat label.
Conjuring up the familiar bluesy revolving rhythms of the Sahara and poking at the powers that control the flow of migrants and refugees, Abbar el Hamada is an expressive, yet restrained, call for compassion with Ms. Brahim’s plaintive vocals against a backdrop filled with plumy guitar lines and neatly worked African percussion.
With the 2012 recording Mabruk with Gulili Ma and the 2014 release of Soutak to her credit, the Saharawi singer has fashioned a smoothly produced recording with Abbar el Hamada, enveloping the desert blues in the warm, rich percussion of West Africa.
Recorded in her adopted home of Barcelona, Spain with producer Chris Eckman, Senegalese percussionist Sengane Ngom, drummer Aleix Tobias, Malian guitarist Kalilou Sangare, bassist and arranger Guilem Aguilar and guitarist Ignasi Cusso, Abbar el Hamada is possessed by a kind of laid back bluesy intensity that is captivating.
Beyond the message, Abbar el Hamada doesn’t rely on sharp edges, but instead enfold the message in a sleekly worked sound as with opening “Buscando la Paz” and the revolving rhythms of “Calles de Dajla.” Darkly lush tracks like “El Canto de la Arena” and “Mani,” with guest guitarist Samba Toure, are real treats with the sorrowful vocals of Ms. Brahim working their plaintive appeal against a quiet kind of blues.
“La Cordillera Negra” is another standout track with its subversive Spanish flair, slinky guitar lines and, believe it or not, a real percussion solo that is rich and rewarding.
Closing track “Los Moros” is just as delicious with its camel plodding across the desert rhythms and moody feel.
Abbar el Hamada is testament to Ms. Brahim’s social activism, as well as her ever increasing collection of fans, proving that while the road may be difficult music can lighten the load.