- 22 Sep 22
A Fitting Tribute To The Father Of The Desert Blues
If you’re going to tackle the work of the late Ali Farka Touré, the Malian guitar master, then you’d best bring something new to it. Trying to simply copy what he archived from his seIf-titled debut album to his final recordings released as the brilliant Savane in 2006 just a few months after his passing - and that's not to leave out the marvellous collaboration with Toumani Diabaté - Ali And Toumani - that came out in 2010 - would be pointless. The man had such a unique approach to rhythm and the blues he could have reduced even celebrated time-signature phobes like John Lee Hooker or Keith Richards to handing in their instruments. If anybody has the right to have go, however, it’s surely Vieux Farka Touré. Paying tribute to his father, Vieux not only has the requisite chops for the job, he also has the good sense to rope in Texan groove-peddlers Khruangbin.
This proves to be the master stroke. As hypnotic and beautiful as the title track of Touré Snr’s Savane is, the addition of the rhythm section of sinuous bass of Laura Lee and the steady-as-several-rocks Donald Johnson on the drums - he thrillingly switches from rim shots to single snare strikes throughout the song - gives it a more sensuous groove that it didn’t have before. And speaking of hypnotic, in another perhaps better universe the irresistible 'Tongo Barra' has everyone moving back their tables and chairs so they can get properly down as it leaps out of the radio because when it comes to moving your feet and shaking your ass, we all speak the same language. It's not easy to stay sitting down during 'Mahine Me' either.
‘Diaraby’ is just one of the delights to be found on the Talking Timbuktu album that won a Grammy for Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder in 1994 but here, as ‘Diarabi’, it moves slightly to the left with the addition of some close to jazz chords from, presumably, Khruangbin man Mark Speer, making it swirl like dust in sunlight. The instruments combine in a similarly heavenly way on ‘Tamalla’ - you could build a house on that bass line - although it’s the vocals that emphasise the original’s melody, and the polyrhythms of the closing ‘Alakarra’, just like the slow and mesmerising 'Ali Hala Abada', cut past language altogether and head straight for the soul.
As an introduction to the master’s work, Ali is near-perfect; as a showcase for four gifted musicians working together across the borders that the best music ignores anyway, finding something new as they do in ‘Lobbo, it’s even better than that.
- Live Review
- 03 Jun 23