Ali Farka Toure (#2)


edited from Banning Eyre ( and Ali Farka Toure (notes to “Radio Mali”)

Ali Farka Toure, of Niafunke, Mali,  set aside his family’s noble heritage to take on the lower-status work of a musician, not to pursue rock ‘n’ roll dreams or transcend wretchedness, but because he wanted to educate people about the rich but neglected cultures of the Malian north, the Sonrai, Songoy, Peul, and Tuareg peoples.

In one hauntingly melodious song from his CD Savane, “Machengoidi,” Toure asks, “What is your contribution to the development of society?” and then answers, “I am a teacher.”

Ali Farka Toure: The spirit who gave me the gift, I knew him very well.  And I remember that night in Niafunke.  A night I’ll never forget.  I was about thirteen years old.  I’d been chatting with some friends. I had the monochord  [single string guitar] in my hand.

I was walking and I was playing just ordinary songs, just like that.  It was about 2 a.m. I got to a place where I saw three little girls like steps of stairs, one higher than the other.  I lifted my right foot.  The left one wouldn’t move.  I stood like that until 4 a.m.

Next day I walked to the edge of the fields.  I didn’t have my instrument with me.  I saw a snake which had a strange mark on its head.  One snake.  I knew the color right away.  Black and white.  Not yellow, not another color, black and white.  And it wrapped itself around my head.  I brushed it off, it fell and went into a hole.  I fled.  It was then that I started having attacks.

I entered a new world.  It’s different than when you’re in a normal state; you’re not the person you know anymore.  Whether it’s fire, water, whether they beat you, you won’t feel a thing.

I was sent to the village of HomborI to be cured and I stayed there for a year and when I was well again I returned home to my family.  There I began playing again and I was very well received by the spirits.


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