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Timbuktu Sings the Blues
March 7, 2006 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Malian bluesman and Ry Cooder collaborator Ali Farka Touré has died at age 66 (or maybe 67). Through his music, and especially his collaborative projects with Western musicians, Touré convincingly made the case that the rhythms and melodies of the Delta blues came straight from Mali and neighboring countries.
posted by kcds (33 comments total)

 
Whoa. Touré was an amazing, prolific musician. He will be sorely missed.

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posted by enrevanche at 6:37 AM on March 7, 2006


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posted by OmieWise at 7:02 AM on March 7, 2006


You know, there's a case to be made the other way, as well. Toure started playing his styles after hearing American blues, so, despite his claims to be working from the progenitor tradition, it's no slam dunk either way.
posted by OmieWise at 7:03 AM on March 7, 2006


Oh goodness. His most recent album, In the Heart of the Moon, recorded with kora virtuoso Toumani Diabaté, sounds like music from Heaven.
posted by digaman at 7:05 AM on March 7, 2006


I doubt Toure denied the American influence -- in fact, I remember reading about it in notes for one of his early albums.

Music is a grand promiscuous crosscultural clusterfuck, and Toure was one of the most shining examples of that.
posted by digaman at 7:07 AM on March 7, 2006


Touré convincingly made the case that the rhythms and melodies of the Delta blues came straight from Mali and neighboring countries.

I don't know about that. Touré was very much influenced by American blues. The African elements of his music are strongest, but the influence of American blues - and John Lee Hooker's guitar - is pretty evident. Touré could blend them together seamlessly. That says more about his talent, I think, than it does about the origin of blues.
posted by three blind mice at 7:10 AM on March 7, 2006


three blind mice writes "Touré could blend them together seamlessly. That says more about his talent, I think, than it does about the origin of blues."

Better said than how I said it, he was a great musician!
posted by OmieWise at 7:12 AM on March 7, 2006


I agree with Omie and the mice: his music says nothing about the origin of the blues, but it was great music. He'll be missed.
posted by languagehat at 7:16 AM on March 7, 2006


He was a great musiciamn and a charming man ... I met Ali Farka Toure very briefly just before he played a gig at the Darlington Arts Centre in 1987.
As we sat having a drink before the gig a tall, imposing man in full African robes came in, not a sight you saw very often in Darlington!
We went to speak to him and he was friendly and engaging, the gig was amazing as well.
RIP
posted by dickdotcom at 7:21 AM on March 7, 2006


Note that Touré claiming that Delta blues was seeded by Malian traditions and saying that Touré was "not influenced by American music" are two completely different statements.

Touré did specifically deny a John Lee Hooker influence, though he liked the man's music. But for ten years during the 1970s -- when Africa was inundated with new American black music from people like James Brown -- Touré worked an an engineer at Radio Mali. He would have heard it all.

The main influence on Touré's music, he believed, was the spirit world. As a devout Muslim, this was a kind of heresy. From such heresies great music is made.
posted by digaman at 7:24 AM on March 7, 2006


You can stream some of his music here. I will probably post an MP3 or two on my own website later if anyone is interested.

Farka Toure, along with Youssou N'Dour, introduced North African music to a whole generation of Europeans and Americans. Neither his impact nor his talent can be underestimated.
posted by maxreax at 7:30 AM on March 7, 2006


If anyone reading this post hasn't heard Touré, go out and get some now. The sounds that he could make a guitar make were just too unbelievable for description. I'm sorry to hear that he's passed.

The collaboration with Ry Cooder, Talking Timbuktu, got more publicity in the U.S. than any other album from his prolific catalog. It is, however, a fine representation of his work.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:31 AM on March 7, 2006


Nooo.. Damn I loved his shit.
His guitar! How did he make that sound?
posted by metaculpa at 7:49 AM on March 7, 2006


The blues were -- or is that was? -- "invented" as a generic category in 1905, by a white guy. Before that it was just music black folks played. AFT was a goddamn genius musician and a wonderful eccentric character. Damn.

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posted by fourcheesemac at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2006


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posted by pembleton at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2006


They should leave the which-from-what-from-where naval-gazing to the boring academics and just get back to playing music.
posted by HTuttle at 8:01 AM on March 7, 2006


At least boring academics know how to spell "navel."
posted by digaman at 8:18 AM on March 7, 2006


He will sorely be missed.
posted by Deltron3030 at 8:40 AM on March 7, 2006


HTuttle: They should leave the which-from-what-from-where naval-gazing to the boring academics and just get back to playing music.

Boy, HTuttle's got it in for academia today. Yeah, how boring it is to learn about the history of some of the most important music of the last few hundred years, or the global influence of African culture on music? After all, it's really just a socialist plot to keep reminding America that it was built by slaves.

Newsflash: if no one cared about the history of the blues, you'd never have heard of Ali Farka Toure. And of course, only boring academic types care about the history of the blues.

Idiot.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:40 AM on March 7, 2006


Oh, and HTuttle, you gaze at your navel, and recruit law students for your naval requirements. Apropos of nothing.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:42 AM on March 7, 2006


After years of meaning to, I had just begun really listening to his catalog a few weeks ago. It is amazing stuff—I cannae believe it took me this long to get around to it.
posted by Fezboy! at 8:43 AM on March 7, 2006


Very sad. His music was among the most beautiful in the world. "Talking Timbuktu" is one of my all-time favorites. His latest "In the Heart of the Moon" is also great.

Before I heard "Talking Timbuktu" for the first time I didn't expect to like it; I expected a watered-down westernized sound but I was pleasantly surprised.

If you like his music, listen to "Djam Leelii (The adventurers)" by Baaba Maal & Mansour Seck. It has a similar acoustic desert blues sound and is also one of my all-time favorites.
posted by mike3k at 8:48 AM on March 7, 2006


I don't do the "." much anymore, but this has made me come closer than any of the recent spate of passings.

The greatest accomplishment of Humanity thus far is that art can outlive its creators.
posted by freebird at 9:31 AM on March 7, 2006


So sad. I'll never forget "The Source." One of the best albums ever. RIP, Ali.
posted by squirrel at 9:32 AM on March 7, 2006


Damn, he was fantastic.
posted by malaprohibita at 9:50 AM on March 7, 2006


WTF?! damn.
posted by shoepal at 9:54 AM on March 7, 2006


Bummer, I was always grateful to the friend that introduced me to Timbuktu back in the day...to pay it forward I introduced Toure to many of my friends...very sad to hear.

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posted by vito90 at 10:00 AM on March 7, 2006


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posted by mrblondemang at 10:43 AM on March 7, 2006


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posted by mygothlaundry at 11:17 AM on March 7, 2006


Damn, first Ivor Cutler, and now Ali Farka Toure...

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posted by klausness at 11:35 AM on March 7, 2006


. and ,

His music will live on.
posted by moonbird at 1:16 PM on March 7, 2006


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posted by pwedza at 11:24 PM on March 7, 2006


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posted by matildaben at 9:30 AM on March 8, 2006


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