Heart Wrenching Malian Blues

Ali Farka Touré – Savane
Ali Farka Touré

Savane (World Circuit/Nonesuch Records, 2006)

With his death at 67 in March of 2006, Ali Farka Touré left behind more than a mourning country, family and worldwide audience, he left one last solo recording and that is the recent release of Savane.

Dubbed the “king of the desert blues singers,” Touré was indeed the guitar and vocal master of his Malian/blues mix and Savane is that final proof. The CD is raw and edgy with enough poignant sorrow and African hope to make the very earth weep at Touré’s passing.

Accompanied by Mama Sissoko and Bassekou Kouyate on ngoni, the traditional lute of West Africa, Fanga Diawara on njarka violin, Little George Sueref on harmonica, Pee Wee Ellis on tenor sax, Yves Wernert on bass and Fain Dueñas on percussion, Touré opens the CD with “Erdi.”

With Touré’s deep vocals and wicked guitar, this low-slung blues number makes one wonder if somewhere they’re missing a Mississippi juke joint. The CD just gets better and better with “Yer Bounda Fara” and Touré’s vocals sung the Sonraï language. It’s pure Africa wrapped in blues blanket.

“Beto” swings with Touré’s guitar, Sissoko and Kouyate on ngoni, Ellis with some sweet tenor sax, Ramata Diakite’s backing vocals, Souleye Kané on calabash, Oumar Touré on congas and Dueñas on percussion.

Propelled by guitar riff and surrounded by the lacy work of two ngoni, title track “Savane” is possessed by Touré mournful lyrics and a spoken section. Every track on Savane is just spectacular, some stand out pieces include “Penda Yoro,” “Ledi Coumbe” and “Soko Yhinka,” but a CD so packed with gems it would be
impossible pick a favorite.< Touré might have adopted the blues genre but he made it his own with a deep, abiding spiritual connection with Mali and Africa, incorporating traditional storytelling and reflective take on his country's past and future. Blues so heart wrenchingly executed, flawlessly placed in a man's life and effortlessly played must surely mean that Ali Farka Touré sprung up from the earth he walked on or fell from the sky, the big African sky. Savane can only mean that the man and musician will greatly missed. Buy the CD:

Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.