Dropping in on a Legend

A Visit to Ali Farka Toure
A Visit to Ali Farka Toure (Digital Classics DVD DC 10006, 2006)

The time spent with Ali Farka Touré as seen here took place after the release of his 1999 album Niafunke. Despite being one of Africa’s most acclaimed musicians and a Grammy winner for Talking Timbuktu, his 1994 collaboration with Ry Cooder, Touré at the time was more concerned with practical matters in his native Mali than with stardom. Proper irrigation and farming of his land was something he tended to on a regular basis, and it was in fact his refusal to leave his farm that led to his recording Niafunke (named for the region where it was made) close to home in an abandoned building.  A Visit to Ali Farka Toure is all about the man on his home turf as he performs, talks of his past and present, explains the particulars of recording and checks up on his crops and the people supported by them. It’s all as unpretentious as Toure himself, who goes about his business with a mixture no-nonsense resolve and humble good humor.

Of course, this is all prior to his election as mayor of Niafunke, his marvelous final albums and his largely unexpected death from lung cancer in 2006. Nonetheless it’s a fascinating portrait of a great musical artist choosing to be a man of the earth rather than a man of the world.

The scenes of Touré jamming with his musicians are particularly good, full of the easy sway and deep feeling that mark West Africa as where the blues began.

Buy A Visit to Ali Farka Toure (NTSC).

Author: Tom Orr

Tom Orr is a California-based writer whose talent and mental stability are of an equally questionable nature. His hobbies include ignoring trends, striking dramatic poses in front of his ever-tolerant wife and watching helplessly as his kids surpass him in all desirable traits.