Music

【Music from Africa – part 2. “Ali Farka Toure”】

Blog 020. (English version)

Hi there.

It’s konkaz (@konkazuk) here.

I know it’s quite sudden to ask, but…

Have you ever heard of an artist called

“Ali Farka Toure”???

He is a folk singer from

“Mali”

in West Africa,

image by Peggy & Marco

and the first time I listened to his music was… when I was a university student.

(Which was more than 20 years ago… well, time surely flies…)

image by Florencia Viadana

At that time, I used to live in Amagasaki city in Hyogo prefecture and somehow, I had been surrounded by the people who were blues music lovers…

So, naturally I started collecting blues records as well as participating in blues jam sessions.

(I remember there happened to be some tinned coffees

which were titled as “Blues Coffee”

with the drawings of…

“Mississippi John Hurt,

“Muddy Waters”,

and

“Big Bill Broonzy”

being sold in a vending machine on campus…

I wonder which Japanese coffee company in Japan was presenting such a cool and unique idea??? Possibly “Cheerio”?)

Among these people whom I was hanging out with,

there was this shrewd guitarist who was able to steal the style of “Lightnin’ Hopkins” and “John Lee Hooker” so effortlessly.

(He once rang me up

[woke me up, precisely!]

during the night

[at this point, he was jobless and had moved out from his flat, so he was basically crashing in one place to another place]

and told me that he only had 500 yen left,

[=a few pounds at this time]

and asked me if…

he should keep that money for using as deposit to rent a room

(Who the hell would take that amount!)

or

getting a bottle of cold sake to sleep with…)

image by Yu Hai

I don’t quite remember how the conversation ended, but I am sure he opted for the second option! w)

Anyway, this very man recommended me

“Ali Farka Toure”

whose music I am going to introduce here.

I had not listened to his record for a while, but I heard the news of one of his records getting re-issued this year,

therefore, I bought and listened to it…

…and it was absolutely brrrrilliant!💕

So, here,

I have picked up three of his records.

スポンサーリンク

Ali Farka Toure (1987) 

image from Amazon.co.uk

This was the very first album I was to experience

“Ali Farka Toure”s music

(released from a British world-music record label called “World Circuit”)

which was brought in by aforementioned “Cold-sake-drinking shrewd guitarist.

As I’m listening to this now,

it still sounds fresh and heart-warming.

I’d had an impression of something more bluesy about this album back in my younger days,

but it is just the guitar licks he uses which shows the style of some country blues music.

This is actually the album of folk music, I’ve realised.

While what you can hear in black American’s country blues

(the story of drunkenness, prostitution, mischievousness, sadness, hopelessness, perversiveness, and so on)

image by Austin Neill

might match up well with the ambience of dim lights in the bar and night clubs,

what is illuminating “Ali Farka Toure” ‘s music is definitely the sunlight.

And I feel that the sunlight in this particular album has got a vibe of the evening twilight

image by Avid Froese

“crows are cawing so, it’s time to go home” kind of (from Japanese lullaby) …which is totally relaxing.

It’s also nice to hear him singing and playing the guitar with very simple setting…

(backed by only bongo and calabash [a percussion instrument created from gourds], and they are both played by himself)

This is a highly recommended album!!!

Ali Farka Toure (Red Album)

Next one is…

the “Red Album”!!!

image from Amazon.co.uk

This album was originally released by French record company called “Disques Esperance”in 1984,

however, the LP record was reissued in Europe by British record label called “World Circuit”in March 2021.

(Yes, this year!)

Besides, it comes with Obi strip and also the insert is kindly included like Japanese issue! 

Most of his early recordings have no title but simply his name was put on their sleeves, therefore sometimes it is tricky to explain which album you are going to talk about.

aimage by Erika Wittlieb

But, regarding this album, because the colour of its sleeve (around the picture) was

red

with the 1st issue,

it is often called

“Red Album”

to distinguish from the others.

Anyway, compared with the album which was released in 1987 (the one I recommended earlier), this sounds somewhat bluesier...

I also could hear the distinctive “sound” or “boogie-woogie groove” which is a kind of trademark of “John Lee Hooker” (an American blues musician)

image from Wikipedia

here and there in his guitar playing and thought it was really cool…

Then, I found the fact in Wikipedia and some reviews that he had actually been dubbed “African John Lee Hooker”.

I’ve also found him being upset about this fact in one article (The Guardian).

When it comes to art / music, it is quite common thing that what had inspired you or what you had really loved during the early stage of your artistic career comes out naturally as a part of your work in one way or another later on.

So, it must be frustrating if somebody captures only a part of your source and take the part just for the purpose of comparing, to be able to describe the artist easily,

…and as a result,

you get labelled as “xxx country’s” somebody, or “new” somebody. 

Well… anyway, putting this matter aside,

this is simply a great album with a dry breeze of Africa!

image by Hebi B

Some people might find the fact of bluesy

(I’m not talking about the bluesy sound of electric-guitar-playing here. And his songs don’t have 12 bar chord progression either)

songs being sung by non-English language fresh and delightful, I presume…

Also, the synchronization between

his resonating voice (double recorded?)

and

percussion-playing

is emphasizing the ethnic ambience.

This is a crispy album where you can experience both the “heat” and the “breeziness” in one.

ALI TOURE FARKA (1977)

This album (EP?)where his middle name and sir name are put the other way round on its sleeve

is one of his early recordingsreleased in 1977 by French record company called “Sonafric” that exclusively deals with African music.

I personally think this is a beautiful album where you can hear his sublime guitar-playing,

however, the fact that it was recorded with no percussionsand also repetitive “fiddle sound”?

image by The Humantra

can be heard throughout the whole song with some tracks might give people an impression that

this album is not “POP” enough,

hence I assume this album could be

“Love it or hate it” type

(If you are a sort of person who could listen to …let’s say …the old recordings of Woody Gurthrie throughout the whole one album, you will love this album.)

Anyway, I have introduced his three albums up to this point,

however, if I am to select the popular albums generally,

it will be the one called

“River”

which was released in 1990.

…and “Talking Timbukta”(1994)

which is featuring American musician “Ry Cooder”.

And finally, “Ali and Toumani” (2010)

which is a work of collaboration between Ali and a country folk called “Toumani Diabate” who plays the instrument called “Kora”.

However, from the “River” onwards he often plays electric guitar, and from my point of view, he sometimes goes over the top and the music gets too busy.

And as for the album which was recorded with Ry Cooder, the typical “rock style” drum-playing which is often heard with the performance of electric blues spoils the good ethnic vibes that exist in Ali’s music.

And finally, regarding the collaborative album(s) with “Toumani Diabate” (there are actually two albums), they sound absolutely beautiful, however, those skillful instrumental recordings can be just like BGMin the restaurant, I have to say.

(They are only my personal opinions, just in case…)

After all, there is no

“wabi-sabi”

…or a kind of

“magic”

which once existed in his early recordings in these ones,

and they sound like something typical of the ones once the artist become …“celebrity”.

image by Capital Dudes

Therefore I would give it a pass, personally.

In conclusion, I recommend those early ones which have “no title but simply his name was put on their sleeves.”

konkaz

👉 *Japanese version of this blog post

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