Tag Archives: Ali Farka Touré

A message from our friends at World Circuit Records: Inna Baba Coulibaly with ALI FARKA TOURÉ – “Sahel”

World Circuit Records announce a special Record Store Day release

Have a listen ahead of time with this exclusive Soundcloud link: https://soundcloud.com/world-circuit-records/sets/inna-baba-coulibaly-with-ali-farka-toure-sahel/s-EuolL

Hello there! It’s been a while!

We’ve just been sent a special message from our friends over at World Circuit Records and we thought there’d be quite a few of you who would be interested in hearing what they’ve been up to. Rare Malian music alert! That got your attention. Now read on….

You may know World Circuit thanks to their legendary status after being the record label that brought us delights such as Oumou Sangare, Bueno Vista Social Club and – of course – Ali Farka Toure and his grammy award winning album with Ry Cooder Talking Timbuktu. To celebrate Record Store Day (22nd April 2017) World Circuit are  releasing a 10 inch vinyl EP of classic tracks by Inna Baba Coulibaly, the legendary Fula singer. The songs were recorded over forty years ago at the studios of Radio Mali in Bamako and feature that great Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure. They’ve seldom been heard outside Mali…until now!

The story of Inna Baba Couilbaly

“Music is my passion…It’s my destiny…Young musicians must respect our music, and not destroy our tradition”

The rest of their press release reads as follows:

“Inna Baba Coulibaly was born near the town of Dilly, close to the border between Mali and Mauritania. The region is known for its herds of long-horned zebu cattle and its numerous holy sites dedicated to Sufi saints who are venerated for their piety, wisdom and tolerance.

Born into the noble Coulibaly clan, Inna Baba claims she inherited her love of singing from her mother, Anna Coulibaly. But the Fula consider singing to be unseemly for a woman of noble birth, and Anna Coulibaly was the target of much criticism, even magical spells. She did everything she could to persuade her daughter not to sing, reminding her of the old belief that young girls who sang were destined to live short lives. But she couldn’t stop Inna Baba, who delighted in stealing off with her friends after sunset to sing under the light of the desert moon.

After Inna Baba was married at the age of 14, her husband’s family managed to silence her for a while. But a saviour arrived in the unlikely figure of the commandant of Dilly, who arrived in her village one day looking for singers and musicians to appear at some prestigious Independence Day celebration. He demanded to hear the local talent and threatened dire consequences if no one came forward. Finally the village relented and four of their best musicians were chosen, including Inna Baba, who won first prize at the festival. After relocating to the capital Bamako in the late 1960s with her husband, she began to perform regularly, winning further accolades in the country’s famous Biennale competitions with her traditional Fula, Bamana and Soninke songs.”

Enter: Ali Farka Toure 

“This EP is the result of those recordings – a priceless snapshot of three Malian legends in their prime”

“Inna Baba was a regular visitor to the Bamako home of Amadou Djeli Ba, a fellow native of Dilly and master of the ngoni or traditional lute. It was there that she met Ali Farka Toure who was already famous thanks to his regular broadcasts on Radio Mali. It took her some time to overcome her shyness and come out from behind the door where she would hide, singing the songs softly to herself while the two great musicians played together. After a while, Ali Farka Toure suggested they all go to the Radio Mali studio and record a few songs. This EP is the result of those recordings – a priceless snapshot of three Malian legends in their prime.

Following these recordings, Inna Baba Coulibaly travelled back to Dilly to perform in front of President Moussa Traore and a delegation of high-ranking officials. The visit was part of a national tour that the Malian dictator undertook to try and bind his vast and disparate nation more closely together. At every stop on the way, the best local musicians and singers were chosen to represent their town and their region. Inna Baba was the choice of Sidi Modibo Kané, the revered marabout or holy man of Dilly. After an unforgettable performance her fame, already ample following the success of her Radio Mali recordings, continued to grow.

In the years that followed, Inna Baba joined the Franco-Malian group Manden Foly and toured throughout Mali, France, and the rest of the world, appearing on Malian and French national TV on numerous occasions. Despite her fame and the constant invitations to appear at weddings, celebrations, festivals and concerts, she tries to spend as much at as possible back home in Dilly, to keep the flame of her ancestral Fula culture and her love of her Sahelian home, burning bright.

“Music is my passion,” she says, in a wonderful video made by the Mali-based NGO Instruments4Africa, “It’s my destiny…Young musicians must respect our music, and not destroy our tradition.”

Four very special songs 

The four songs on the EP paint a vivid picture of life on the sahel or ‘shore’ of the great Sahara desert.  ‘Sahal’ is a love song to the young men who venture out into the wilderness with their great herds of cattle; it expresses the joy and celebration sparked by their return, the gossip and excitement too as those young men look for a young bride among the prettiest girls in the village.  “He who doesn’t have cows – I don’t extol him, or speak to him,” warns the song.

In‘Ndalen Koten’ (‘Let’s Go’), Ali Farka Toure salutes various people in his life, people he esteems and feels gratitude towards, such as Bela Boré, who first introduced Ali Farka to Malian national radio.

‘Allah Holam’ (‘May God Show Me’) is a paean to Sidi Modibo Kané, the great marabout of Dilly. Inna Baba calls on the great religious heroes of the Fula people – Sékou Oumarou and Sékou Amadou – to implore God to show her Sidi Modibo, so that he may bless her. The song is a passionate illustration of the importance of those Sufi saints in the lives of ordinary Malians.

Finally, ’Zaglia’ (‘Pilgrimage’) is a celebration of pilgrimage, one of the duties or pillars of Islam. The song depicts the bustling devotion of the day when pilgrims leave for Dilly to venerate the saint, with its celebrations, its readings of the koran, its feasting and goat racing. “When God has chosen you, be proud of it,” goes the song, “Pilgrimage above all else.”

 For more information please contact: press@worldcircuit.co.uk

Have a listen ahead of time with this exclusive Soundcloud link: https://soundcloud.com/world-circuit-records/sets/inna-baba-coulibaly-with-ali-farka-toure-sahel/s-EuolL

Photo Credit: World Circuit Records

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Ali Farka Toure – Tulumba : Mali Song of the Week

Ali Farka Toure songs are never short of emotion. ‘Tulumba’ announces itself triumphantly which somewhat betrays the rest of the song. It continues in at the pace of a melancholic shanty, not despairing but grieving.

And there is much to grieve over in the last week of Malian life. On April 14th the great and widely celebrated Malian photographer Malick Sidibé passed away in Bamako aged 80. In a delightful tribute, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, International Correspondent with NPR, described the effect Sidibé’s death has had on the country through the words of Mali’s culture minister, N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo. He was undoubtedly a “national treasure” whose loss the entire country is mourning.

The war in the north of Mali has seen a bloody week. Civilians, soldiers and humanitarians all falling victim to the enduring instability, growing distrust and angst at a wretched situation of which no one appears to have the strength to control. In that void violence thrives. The International Committee of the Red Cross announced on Monday that for a month three of its aid workers on assignment in deep in the north in Abeibara had been missing. Only a week before this announcement, three French soldiers had been killed in a landmine blast during a routine drive from Gao with President Hollande expressing “deep sadness” upon hearing the news. And perhaps most troubling of all is the situation in Kidal. Reports from Mali on April 19th describe how a street protest formed to demonstrate against arrests made by French and UN forces which they allege were arbitrary and undermined peace efforts. The situation turned violent resulting in 4 deaths, 7 injuries – 2 seriously – a trashed airport, and shots fired, reportedly by UN soldiers as much as anyone else.

In these desperate times we must consider the wisdom of Toure and Sidibé – these two late, great Malians – and not slip so easily into sorrow and defeat. Artists leave us with gifts, new tools to understand and interpret the world. In 2008, Sidibé told The Daily Telegraph “For me, photography is all about youth…It’s about a happy world full of joy, not some kid crying on a street corner or a sick person.” Writing about the motivation to create the album Niafunké (named after his beloved home town) from which ‘Tulumba’ hails, Ali Farka Toure explained that:

“My music is about where I come from and our way of life and it is full of important messages for Africans. In the West perhaps this music is just entertainment and I don’t expect people to understand. But I hope some might take the time to listen and learn.”

So whilst we can rejoice in the magic that these artists produce, we must also consider their approach and look deeper. We must allow ourselves to be challenged by what is being presented to us. This may appear difficult without access to context or language and perhaps as a Westerner it can never be fully understood. But this spectacular photography and music is unquestionably stirring. It makes an impression on us. Let’s gather that feeling up and at the very least we can try and understand it, unpick it, respond to it and see what we learn from there. Perhaps there is a way through.

 

 

Ali Farka Toure – Tulumba

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ali Farka Toure – Hawa Dolo

It’s a quick and a gentle one this week. Ali Farka Toure provides a warm, reassuring acoustic tune that rolls along at that familiar pace that soothes the mind. With all the chaos and emotional upheaval of the last weeks and months it is perhaps more useful to lie back for a moment and take a well earned break – instead of delving further into the relentlessly poor news.

Delightfully and helplessly simple, Hawa Dolo compels the listener into the perfect position to reflect, recharge and pick out the goodness in Mali we all yearn for. It’s all still there. Somewhere. Smothered, breaking out or simply rumbling on.

Particularly mesmeric is the music video. Ali is pictured in a timeless, idyllic Nirvana. One of an endless sunset and an inviting breeze. Follow it and you’ll find all the time you could need to create, contemplate and treasure the world.

 

Ali Farka Toure – Hawa Dolo

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

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

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ali Farka Toure – Heygana

Heygana is the opening track of Ali Farka Toure’s 1991 album The River. Its another example of the seamless gelling of European folk and Malian blues. Like Fats Kaplin’s fiddle muddling within a Tinariwen song, Ali Farka Toure’s music happily accommodates the harmonica of Rory McLeod.

The similarities in McLeod’s career and that of many Malian musicians does not end there. Often, griot’s have made their way onto the Hub as Song of the Week (though, Ali Farka Toure does not come from this musical background). The traditional function for a griot – amongst many other things – is the development and retelling of  stories, both factual and symbolic, to form the core of West African oral history. The songs and poetry they write is more important than their aesthetic value, carrying with them great political and cultural significance. Now its this unique to West Africa?  No, not really. But is it only an ancient phenomenon? Maybe not, either. This is where we bring Rory back in, with a selection of quotes about his work:

“Intimate, revealing, political and powerful.”

“When he sings his songs he will take you on a journey with him.”

“Poetry and dance-stories with verve, sharpness, humour and warmth about people and for people.”

 

When speaking of griots in a modern context, it is popular to speak only of their history. To be fair, it is incredible to picture the care and effort that has gone into this transfer of music through many, many generations. For someone brought up in a world saturated with recorded and mass-manufactured music it is awe-inspiring to imagine how this low-tech, fragile, ancestral chain of artwork even survived. How many opportunities must each verse have had to be wiped out completely? Even in the modern world, with all the protection now offered by recorded media, there are those who have still sought to destroy these histories and practices forever. This shocking and sickening work is still occurring daily in Mali and other  parts of the Muslim world – and not only to music, but to other equally fragile, beautiful, precious and above all irreplaceable artefacts.

But on the flipside, this recent, rumbling conflict in Mali has spurred on the next generation to take on the griot attitude, traditions and responsibilities. In Mali, many musicians have used music to motivate, to educate and to reach deeply into the conciousness to paint a bigger picture – to revisit an inner, more balanced, sense of self and community. Luckily, as evidenced by the quotes above, it appears that the griot tradition is battling on in this way in many societies, including Britain.

 

Ali Farka Toure – Heygana

 

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ali Farka Touré – Ai Bine

This song has been chosen solely to show off the excellent fusion between the rolling desert blues and the saxophone –  a guest instrument in a traditional Malian line up. Sitting comfortably amongst the other sounds, the saxophone’s involvement feels much like the family dynamic when a distant but much loved member has come to stay. Helping out with the melody, Steve Williamson‘s saxophone sings playfully alongside  Ali Farka Touré’s electric guitar.  It creates a slightly different sound by building on Farka Touré’s adaptation and arrangement of traditional sounds, adding a modern, urban element. At one point both instruments solo at once in a jazzy fashion. The great sound alluding to their common ancestry

The six minutes whizz by in what feels like seconds but the song still packs in all the classic traits of a great Ali Farka Touré song: short bursts of vocals, a simple unchanging rhythm and a masterful array of melodies.

Ali Farka Touré – Ai Bine

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information please email him directly at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We look forward to hearing from you.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ali Farka Touré – Ai Du

Following on from a Song of the Week published earlier in the year, another Ali Farka Touré track has been granted the title for the next 7 days. As before this is in order to point to the relationship between American blues artist Corey Harris and the great Malian guitarist Touré.

Harris has recently released a book on Ali Farka Touré, which is certainly the most comprehensive and insightful text on his life since Ali passed away in 2006. Though their music Ali and Corey developed a strong respect for each other, but for Harris it was always Touré who seemed to have more to teach him. Speaking recently at an event at the School  of Oriental and African Studies in London, Harris provided excellent insights into the world of the blues. By sharing his stories he was  able to understand and thus explain more about his identity as an American musician from the deep south, and provide a very sophisticated insight into Mali’s music and society, and Ali’s place within it.

He explained how he first saw Toure in a performance with Ry Cooder in New Orleans whilst the pair were on their 1993/94 ‘Talking Timbuktu‘ tour (incidentally this is the album from which this week’s Song of the Week originates). Recalling the post-show press conference there was, understandably, a lot of interest in this African blues artist. Specifically people wanted to know where did he learn to play like that? How did he learn to play and what made him want to play the blues? People began to speculate over his influences too. Then Ali spoke, cutting across the room to set the record straight: “My music is older than the blues.”

That certainly got their attention.

Corey had already experienced West African music in person from his time living in Cameroon. It was not till 2002 that their paths would cross again. Corey explained, in his easy-going and instantly-likeable manner, how he realised that his music, the American blues, was “not so much a different branch of the same tree, but [Ali’s music] was closer to the root…I could play a segment of his music, but he could play all of mine”. Corey tried to impress Ali with some American blues classics. He played his favourite Henry Stuckey and Skip James upon which Ali – in his typically jolly, affable and childish way – responded by exclaiming “that’s one of our tunes!”

Placed between the very enjoyable stories of their friendship Corey also spoke deeply on slavery, past and present. He also spoke on identity and on the culture that both divides and connects Africa and America. His insights can only extend deeper in what promises to be an excellent book and a must read for anyone who loves Malian music.

Ali Farka Touré – Ai Du

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté – Ruby

This week’s track comes from a special collaboration between the two greats of Malian music, Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté. The album entitled Ali and Toumani containing this week’s track was released in 2010 and was Ali’s last studio album, it being released 4 years after his death.

Here in a review by Nonesuch Records, Diabaté talks about his relationship with Touré and the music they made together. It is taken from a conversation with and edited by Andy Morgan:

“When you’re listening to this album it’s like you’re reading a book about Ali. The album was going to be a summing up of all the albums that Ali had done in the past. It wasn’t about covering old songs just because there weren’t any new ones, no not at all. It was about revealing all the different possibilities once again. It was the very last album he made.”

So the song Ruby is the first track on the final musical adventure of Ali Farka Touré. It must be remembered that Toumani and Ali come from different parts of Mali and two very different musical backgrounds. During the recording of the album Ali was very ill and battled to keep playing. This didn’t stop him mastering the griot songs that Toumani taught him, which were a foreign style to Ali. However, to honour the great man, Ruby has been selected as this week’s song of the week. Producer Nick Gold explains why this song is important:

“This is how Ali played alone in private. If he played to himself and you happened to be in the room with him, he would touch the guitar very softly. It was beautiful to watch. But when he got into the studio, the volume was upped by 10!! But this time he didn’t do that. “Ruby” is a Bobo song that Ali had heard in San, a village on the road to his home in Niafunke. It must have been a completely new tune to Toumani. A lot of this repertoire was new to him.

My 5 year old daughter Ruby and I were sat on the floor at Ali’s feet for this. Because the kora is such a quiet instrument, you have to be very still when it’s being recorded. Any creak or breath can be heard. We held our breath through much of the song. When it was over I asked “What’s that one called?” And Ali just looked at Ruby and said, “Ruby!”

Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté – Ruby