March 7, 2006


Ali Farka Touré (Daily Telegraph, 08/03/2006)

Ali Ibrahim Touré was born in 1939 at Kanau, near Timbuktu in the northern Sahara; like many Africans of his generation, he never knew his exact birthdate. He was his parents' tenth child (none of his nine older brothers survived) and acquired the nickname Farka ("Donkey") as a tribute to his stubbornness and endurance. His father died during the Second World War fighting with the French Army, and the family moved to the village of Niafunke, where young Ali received no formal education, working instead in the fields.

From his earliest years, he was interested in music, though since his family was a noble one this enthusiasm was at first discouraged. Malian music was traditionally the preserve of the griot caste, and Ali's mother disliked his passion for the gurkel, a traditional sort of guitar, the njarka, a kind of violin, and the ngoni, a species of lute.

When he was 13 he saw three ghostly girls, and then a black and white snake, which led to nervous attacks which plagued him for a year. But when he started playing, the spirit world was pleased with the results.

Ali Farka Touré, Grammy-Winning Musician of West Africa, Dies (JON PARELES, 3/08/06, NY Times)

Mr. Touré's deep grounding in Malian traditions made him one of African music's most profound innovators. "Mali is first and foremost a library of the history of African music," he said in a 2005 interview with the world-music magazine Fly. "It is also the sharing of history, legend, biography of Africa."

In Mali he was considered a national hero. At the news of his death, government radio stations there suspended regular programming to play his music.

Mr. Touré collaborated widely, winning Grammys for albums he made with the American guitarist Ry Cooder ("Talking Timbuktu" in 1994) and with the Malian griot Toumani Diabaté ("In the Heart of the Moon," 2005). He also recorded with the American bluesman Taj Mahal.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Cooder said: "It's important for a traditional performer to be coming from a place and tradition, and most people who are like that tend to be part of their scene rather than transcendent of their scene. That's what their calling is all about. But Ali was a seeker. There was powerful psychology there. He was not governed by anything. He was free to move about in his mind."

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 7, 2006 11:40 PM

Spooky...We just at breakfast Sunday am while listening to an old Ali Farka Toure cassette that I transcribed to CD... is there JuddBlog mini-cam in here somewhere? Or a Daily Telegraph mini-cam?

(Is it my browser, or did everyone else have "Manliness" and the new book by Mr. Bruinius underneath the Ali Farke Toure citation? When I clicked on the "Comments" they were replaced by the appropriate ones. While we're on the subject of browser quirks-- why is it that sometimes those boxed links to amazon cause an opaque, black box to appear randomly and make it impossible to read certain postings? Again, is it only my browser? What gives?)

Posted by: Brian McKim at March 8, 2006 6:48 AM

For a continent that doesn't really have a lot of good stuff coming out of it, I have to say African pop music is some of the best in the world. I was a dj in college during law school (KUOI in Moscow, Idaho) and I was exposed to a lot of African pop music and it is good stuff.

Posted by: pchuck at March 8, 2006 10:30 AM
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