The link between Africa and America, i.e. whether there is still a surviving link that exists from the period of the slave trade, has been a subject of numerous explorations, assumptions, projects, movies (Feels like Goin' Home
by Scorsese). In all the regions worldwide there were people that went to all kinds of places, recording songs and thus evidencing the legacy of different folk cultures. One of the most evident examples about that link between Africa and North America is probably Ali Farka Toure, one of today's most notable figures from Africa. When you listen to some of his works, the first thing you notice are the similarities with another mythical figure from the world of blues, John Lee Hooker. But these two figures don't have any meeting points except that both draw inspiration from the rich African musical traditions.
Still, before becoming a celebrity worldwide, he was a famous figure in Mali, where he published albums that somehow mysteriously found their way to its audience in Europe.
These two albums were originally published in 1984 and 1988, and besides the titles and Toure's photography they provided no further information. Therefore, they were named by fans as Red and Green albums. Firstly, they were published by Sonodisk and were available only in Mali and France. The Red album (1984) quickly found its way to specialized radio shows and magazines, where Toure was hailed as "the African John Lee Hooker." As a result of that, WC went to Mali armed with a copy of the Red album in search of Toure. This will mark the rise of Toure's popularity that will result in five great albums including the collaboration with Ry Cooder, Talking Timbuktu , which won a Grammy in 1994.
The tunes on these reissues are simple and distinct. Followed by his guitar, Toure is singing in several local languages and is joined by two local instruments, calabash and ngoni. These are actually some of the first recordings of these instruments. The music itself runs down the clich's about African music and its accent on rhythm. Still, the guitar is impressionable with its melodies and simplicity. Toure's playing is always melodic, modal, and meditative, and he repeats musical phrases over and over again, subtly changing them. There are many highlights on this issue ("La Drogue," "Ali Aoudy," "Sidi Gouro," etc), but the beauty of this double CD comes from Toure's light touch on the strings as well as his flexible, reedy voice, which both perfectly complement his rhythmic style.
A long time ago, these albums were printed in small quantities which sold out while the master tapes were laying in basements forgotten. Finally, these classics are now seeing the light of the day and hopefully will receive the credits they deserve. After all, this is the foundation of the legend of Ali Farka Toure.
Personnel: Ali Farka Toure - guitar, vocals;
Hammer Sankare - vocals, calabash, ngoni