Archive for the ‘Ali Farka Toure’ Category

A Visit to Ali Farka Toure

October 7, 2014



A Visit To Ali Farka Touré (Kultur Video DVD)



Kultur Video pays homage to the legendary, late Grammy Award winning world musician, Ali Farka Touré, with the release of the DVD documentary A Visit To Ali Farka Touré. The African singer and guitarist was known throughout the world for his innovative music and his deep commitment to improving conditions in his homeland. His death caused worldwide lament, and this documentary gives his fans an exclusive glimpse into his life, his music and his community.

Filmmaker Marc Huraux takes viewers to Ali’s homeland in Mali, Africa. Marc provides an unprecedented look at the world music legend as the two converse, and discuss Ali’s personal memories – from his early childhood up through recent events. An illuminating documentary about a man who gave up touring and recording sessions at the end of his career to preserve his link between his music and its source in deep Mali, A Visit To Ali Farka Touré, provides an intimate look at a remarkable man devoting much of his time, energy and resources toward improving conditions in his homeland.

The documentary features live performances from Mali Dje, Gomni, Chanson sur Niafunke, Keito and Tulumba. Conversations with Samba Toure, Afel Bocoum, Oumar Diallo Barou, Oumar Toure, Djeneba Doukoure, Hamma Sankare, Concano Yatara, Souleyman Kane and Yoro Cisse provide a compelling look at the man and his music.

Ali Farka Touré is recognized as one of the pioneers of “Mali Blues” – a mixture of contemporary African music and blues. His music quickly spread throughout West Africa and gained a successful career as he toured widely in Africa, Europe and the U.S. Toure was honored with his first Grammy Award for Talking Timbuktu and then a second Grammy for his album in collaboration with another famous Malian musician, Toumani Diabate, In the Heart of the Moon.

After a long battle with cancer, the musician passed away on March 7, 2006, but he will forever remain a legend through the power of his music and his influence in society.




June 9, 2014

World renowned Blues guitarist, vocalist, band leader and songwriter, Corey Harris,  launched his first book on Monday 12th May in London. ‘Jahtigui: The Life and Music of Ali Farka Toure’ is the only book honouring the man and his legacy, whose desert blues changed the face of Malian music and influenced musicians the world over. The life and music of the Malian music legend are examined through the eyes of those who knew him best such as his son, accomplished musician Vieux Farka Toure. Compiled from both interviews and first hand experiences with the guitar master in his desert home in Niafunke, northern Mali.

excerpt from ‘Jahtigui: The Life and Music of Ali Farka Toure’:

Ali Farka Toure  bought his first guitar while in Bulgaria on April 21st, 1968. Around this time he first heard the music of Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Otis Redding, Jimmy Smith and Albert King, in which he said he recognized so much of his own musical traditions. But the one whose music struck him as being most similar to his own was the legendary John Lee Hooker. Upon hearing this music for the first time, he was amazed and thought to himself that “this music was taken from here.”

He loved the blues, but often said that his music began long before the blues was born. Many European and American writers were eager to give all the credit to the John Lee Hooker records Ali had heard after his style and approach to music had already fully manifested. He was definitely influenced by the blues he heard on records but he was secure in his musical identity. He often recalled his surprise the first time he heard Hooker, saying, “Where did they get this culture? This is something that belongs to us!”

As for the blues, Ali said, “to me blue is just a color. My music came long before the blues was born.” When he drove across the vast desert of northern Mali in his Land Rover, Ali’s stereo blasted the music of Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Bobby Blue Bland and other blues and soul artists whom he recognized as his musical kinsmen. It didn’t matter to him that much of the English that they sung in was unintelligible to him. Upon learning of the passing of John Lee Hooker in 2001, Ali extended his heartfelt condolences. He knew that they belonged to the same musical family, rooted in the civilizations of ancient Africa.
He celebrated the African root of the blues as common knowledge, though many western audiences did not see the connection so clearly. Many thought it simply impossible that such a long history lay behind the music. Implicit in this idea is that Africans came to the West with no cultural traditions. Ali knew that Black American music has deep roots extending into the ancient empires of West Africa from which Black Americans’ ancestors were torn. He spoke about it often.

Just as European and other immigrant populations in North America persevered and further developed the music of their ancestors, so was the case with Africans in the Americas. Toumani Diabate once said “You can take people…you can take off his clothes, you can take off his shoes, you can take his name and give him another name…. the only thing that you can’t ever take from him is his culture.“ Ali Farka Toure represented the missing link between African music and Black American music. To know his music is to know the source.

Ali Farka Toure (#2)

April 21, 2014

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.

Ali Farka Toure

April 8, 2013

Great archival footage showing the technique used to play the ngoni, one of many West African banjo ancestors.  Ali Farka Toure, of Niafunke, Mali,  and an unknown ngoni player, play “Yulli” in Bamako, Mali in 1980. 


Ngoni is the Bambara name for an ancient traditional lute found throughout West Africa. Though typically a small instrument the ngoni has a big sound and a big place in the history of West African music. Its body is a hollowed-out, canoe-shaped piece of wood with dried animal skin stretched over it like a drum. The neck is a fretless length of doweling that inserts into the body, which unlike the kora (whose neck goes totally through its calabash resonator) stops short of coming out the base of the instrument.

For this reason musicologists classify the ngoni as a “internal spike lute.” The ngoni’s strings (which are made of thin fishing line like the kora) are lashed to the neck with movable strips of leather, and then fed over a fan-shaped bridge at the far end of the body. The string closest to the player actually produces the highest pitch, and the player plucks it with his thumb, just like a 5-string banjo. This feature, coupled with the fact that the ngoni’s body is a drum rather than a box, provides strong evidence that the ngoni is the African ancestor of the banjo.

Instruments of this general construction can be found from Morocco to Nigeria, and everywhere in between. Some are very large, such as the gimbri played the mystic Gnawa brotherhood of Morocco. Others are tiny, such as the one-stringed gurkel of northern Mali. In Senegal the Wolof call it xalam (pronounced: halam) while in the Gambia the Mandinka have a 5-string version they call kontingo. The version played by the Manding griots of The Gambia, Mali and Guinea is typically about two-feet long and has either four or seven strings.