Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ali Farka Toure – Lasidan

This song, to me, is all about adventure. Travelling into an unknown, that magnetic pull to a place that you’ve yet to see. Firstly, its the pace. The song moves at speed. The rhythm, vocals and licks from the guitar climb over each other to keep the song moving, rolling like a wave. Its got that mysterious, care-free, optimistic sound. Like staring at a foreign landscape from a passenger window, excitement flies in from all directions. The instruments in the song compete, trying their luck with your attention. They excite and startle, all the while the rhythm and percussion pin the song together in an animated meld of sahelian sounds.

With these emotions flowing it is difficult not to imagine riding along the road to a Timbuktu of yesteryear. Ali Farka Toure was born here in 1939 and as it was French Soudan in those day the city’s inhabitants were dragged off to WWII. Things haven’t got much better for the city since. In the late 1950s the city’s main water source – a canal stretching the 12 miles to the Niger river – was swallowed up by the sands of the relentless desert. This economic decline coincided with decolonisation in the 1960s and with its position as a gateway between North and South, Timbuktu has suffered harder than most during the series of conflicts that have defined Mali’s recent history. The city’s fortunes are a long way from the time when it was home and provider to the richest person in human history.


Ali Farka Toure – Lasidan

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