Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Track of the Week

Ali Farka Touré & Corey Harris – Cypress Grove

This week’s track is to mark the unveiling of a statue of Ali Farka Touré in Bamako last weekend.  Here he joins up with American blues and reggae guitarist/vocalist Corey Harris. Ali Farka Touré once boldly asserted that the beloved American musical genre was “nothing but African”. His claim has scholarly backing too – notably from ethnomusicologist Gerhard Kubik. The relationship between American music and that of Africa is a truly fascinating area of study. Indeed for those of you out there who are intrigued by musical history to get you started on this subject here is a handy introductory excerpt from Gerhard Kubik’s book Africa and the Blues. Explained in the book is the general theory that:

“…the American blues were a logical development that resulted from specific processes of cultural interaction among eighteenth- to nineteenth-century African descendants in the United States, under certain economic and social conditions”.

Though it is worth adding that this ‘cultural interaction’ and ‘certain economic and social conditions’ were not always terribly pretty.

Leaving the history lesson behind we fast-forward to the 21st century. In 2002 the collaborative album ‘Mississippi to Mali‘ by Corey Harris was released. On this album Ali Farka Touré features playing under Harris’s vocals in a cover of the Skip James song Cypress Grove Blues, originally recorded in 1931.

Ali Farka Touré & Corey Harris – Cypress Grove

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