Ali Farka Toure is an Africa
who is a virtuoso on the guitar
. He lives in
the village of Nia Founke, near his birthplace in the Timbuktu
, but sometimes tour
His most recent recording, "Niafunke", was released in 1999. In 1994, he released "Talking
Timbuktu", a collaboration with Ry Cooder
, which was the first
album ever to debut at #1 on Billboard
's World Music
Chart. It also earned a Grammy
Toure was born in 1939 into a noble family.
It was the custom in his birthplace for the son of a musician to become a musician, but
not others. Although Toure's father was not a musician, Toure felt called to that
profession and bucked tradition to learn the gurkel (a one-stringed guitar)
and njarka (a one-stringed fiddle). He became inspired to master the guitar
after hearing Guinean guitarist Ketita Fodeba in 1956.
Ali Farka Toure's music is characterized by traditional Malian melodies, and
these sound quite bluesy to most ears. Interestingly, when Toure first heard
blues artist John Lee Hooker he thought he was playing music from Mali. Now he
believes that the American blues originated with Malian music.
Toure is a world-famous musician, but chooses to live as a rice farmer.
His producer couldn't get him to come into the studio to make his last
album, "Niafunke", so it was recorded in an abandoned brick building in his village.
The production crew brought in a generator and all the gear, and had to wait until after
he was done for the day with his chores. Toure's friends and family played backup percussion
and vocals. The informal "jam session" feel of this recording is
evident, but only in its relaxed, easy musicality; Toure's mastery of the strings is
still impeccable. He describes "Niafunke" as a "more real, more authentic"
album because "it was recorded in the place where the music belongs -- deep Mali. We were in the middle of
the landscape that inspired the music and that in turn inspired myself and the musicians."