03 February 2010

Ali & Toumani, part 2

While his son Vieux pioneers on with great West African guitar music, Ali Farka Touré is gone, and we won't be hearing much new music from him. That's what makes the anticipation of the forthcoming album Ali & Toumani such a delicious agony. The second album of guitar-kora collaboration with Toumani Diabaté after 2005's Grammy-winning In the Heart of the Moon, Ali &Toumani promises more of the intricate fingerpicking we've come to expect from these two African masters.

Recorded over three afternoons at London's Livingston Studios in 2005, the album includes contributions from Orlando 'Cachaíto' López on bass, and was also his last album recorded before his death one year ago. I've heard two cuts from the album so far: On the instrumental "Kala Djula" Touré sets the pace with his swaying guitar and then he and Diabaté alternate and intertwine melodic runs, while on "Sabu Yerkoy" Touré sings in his low-key manner between amazing kora riffs.

[mp3]: Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté: Sabu Yerkoy
from the album Ali & Toumani

The lyrics of this song concern Mali's independence and its effect on the people and the title means "thanks to God." The liner notes by producer Nick Gold explain how "Ali had been playing this song since the '60s. It's his take on Cuban salsa with lyrics in Songhai. ... This is the only time Ali recorded the piece. Maybe it was a gesture to Cachaito."

In an interview about the project, Diabaté praised his late musical partner.

Ali had a gift. He was a musical phenomenon, a pioneer of music, a trainer. I think he was created by God for that purpose. His mission was to promote African culture, particularly Malian culture, and he worked at it all his life. He didn't make music only for Mali. He made music for Mali, Africa and the entire world. He was unique in his field. He was a historian. He was a marabout. He was a healer.

More Ali & Toumani:
Buy the CD (street date 23 February)
Get the song "Kenouna" free by signing up on the World Circuit website
Win tickets to the 12 February album launch party in London -- details on Toumani Diabate's facebook blog
Ali Farka Toure myspace

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