Tag Archives: Vieux Farka Toure

Vieux Farka Touré – Kele Magni : Mali Song of the Week

At the beginning of the year we pointed out that some hold the view that China is on a “collision course” with radical Islamic militants in both the Middle-East and across North Africa. This analysis emerged in the aftermath of the attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in November last year where around 170 hostages were taken by the militants and 19 were killed in a mass shooting – among them prominent Chinese officials. Jihadist group Al-Mourabitoun has since claimed responsibility for the assault which it carried out in co-operation with al-Qaeda. Unsure how China would deal with what could be interpreted as a targeted attack on their ambitious plans in Africa, the world speculated on how they would respond. It appears that a slow, shaky collision has begun. China has steadily built up its UN peacekeeping contingent in Mali since the attack and in December passed its first piece of ‘counter-terrorism’ legislation allowing that allows its military to venture overseas on counter-terrorism operations. With violence in Mali spreading, the conflict in the north of the country has now taken the life of its first Chinese peacekeeper and injured five others, two of them seriously. Ansar Dine has claimed responsibility for this particular attack.

So why is China getting involved in the first place? Former Malian Prime Minister Moussa Mara has spoken publicly about his view that China is both a positive force for peace and development in his home country. It is generally assumed you cannot have one without the other and therefore the argument usually follows that, even when looked at cynically, China has simply positioned its troops in Mali to better secure its investments there. Now, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is a very good way to kick-start economic recovery and development so there is every chance that this arrangement can be just as beneficial for Mali as it is for resource-thirsty China. However there are no guarantees that the benefits of any infrastructural, commercial or industrial investments will trickle down to the local population. When social, political and environmental consequences are factored in this kind of arrangement can easily become highly detrimental to the host population.

Surely all foreign investors – not just the Chinese – have any interest in bringing peace to Mali? Well its appears that the powers that be have found a way to make the risk profitable. Not wanting to get into lengthy detail about the ins and outs of investing in Mali, one could assume that the presence of the war in the country would be enough to most people off. Despite this and the proliferation of the conflict throughout Mali over the past year or so a $67 million investment in a gold mine was made this week giving the project in Yanfolia near the Guinea border the green light. Arguably, the conflict is still overwhelmingly centred in the north of the country with the north/south divide more prevalent than ever. It is therefore difficult to ascertain whether the conflict has actually diminished, with the associated investment risks going with it, or that stability and reconstruction are now unnecessary and costly precursors to resource extraction. If the financial benefit for the international community is no longer inhibited by war what interest do they have in pursuing peace?

Of course, the war must stop and Vieux Farka Touré made this statement the focus of his song “Kele Magni” which translates roughly as “the war must stop” or “the war is no good”. Back in The Financial Times documented Vieux’s Queen Elizabeth Hall performance back in September 2013. Then the mood was triumphant; Vieux like many Malians was celebrating the success and assuming the finality of the French military intervention. As David Honigmann reported at the time:

“”War’s not good,” [Vieux Farka Toure] noted, introducing “Kele Magni”; “now they’ve stopped the war.” And appropriately the song, on record contemplative, here bounced with bass and drums in a joyous celebration.”

It has become apparent that the French did indeed stop the nation from collapsing. However despite a UN deployment and free-and-fair elections, three years on from Vieux’s declaration that the war was over violence is recurring and resurgent. Listening to it now the song becomes more a depressive plea; its been long, much too long. The war must end. In an interview in October 2013 Vieux descibes his hometown of Niafunke during the war and how he wrote songs like “Kele Magni” to fulfil his responsibility to “let people know” about what wass happening to their country. The radio interviewer describes the French defeat of the militant forces as a ‘rout‘. Unknowingly at the time this has become an apt portrayal. We now know that al-Qaeda and its patchworker of associate organisations was not a defeated after all, only withdrawn in disorder after sustaining heavy losses. It has been an opportunity for a change of tactics to a more wide-spread guerilla campaign – the one we see today.

So if the war must stop, who will stop it? We must have faith that there are people in Mali that are willing to fight for it. Its musicians always will. But who within all these foreign interventions?  Amongst the Chinese MINUSMA peacekeepers was a soldier named Si Chongchang wounded whilst carring out his mission to bring stabilisation to the people and politics of Mali. Speaking from his hospital bed in Dakhar, it is perhaps right that he should have the last say: “When I recover, I hope to go back to join my comrades and finish what we started.” We must hope that in that mission, he is successful.

 

Vieux Farka Touré – Kele Magni

 

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.

Vieux Farka Toure & Julia Easterlin – Little Things : Mali Song of the Week

This week Vieux Farka Toure links up with American singer-songwriter Julia Easterlin. A new one for me too, but she’s taking the US by storm already as the “one-woman acapella group” and the “one-woman chorus“. This new, industrious, loop-machining young woman met Farka Toure in New York in 2014. Vieux Farka Toure has quite a knack for these spontaneous meetings – the story of this album’s creation sounding quite similar to that magical one with Idan Rachel, the Israeli pianist. As with Rachel, it wasn’t long before the pair knew they had something exciting brewing;  “within about one or two hours we had created four songs together” he explains.

It is astonishing how easily it appears that such delights can come together. Again, Six Degrees Records comes up with some fantastic stories of how another of their releases came to be:

“Julia Easterlin’s melody and lyrics are new, but they are built upon a classic West African song, “Kaira.” Both Vieux and his late father, the legendary blues guitarist Ali Farka Touré, have recorded “Kaira” before; this time, Vieux explains, “I played it in a bit of a new way on guitar, in my own style, and Julia began to improvise on top.””

Toure must have something special about him to enable him to mold and meld his way into all sorts of different musical environments. It must be another manifestation of the theory that historic west African music forms part of the base for contemporary music around the world. The album Touristes from which this week’s song hails from is certainly a music person’ s album. There are all sorts of musical homages, easily exposed influences and plenty of creative “re-imaginings” – as Easterlin would describe them – even before you get to the three ‘startling‘ covers. ‘Little Things’ is a quasi-original; a rework of a West African classic into a modern, yet naturally pleasing, song.

Vieux Farka Toure & Julia Easterlin – Little Things

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

Vieux Farka Toure – Walé

It’s been a little while since we had a father-son dynamic here on the Hub. So to correct this we’ll follow on from last week’s father of Malian blues to the son; Vieux Farka Toure for no reason other than the fact that they’re both exceptionally good musicians.

From the exceptionally good, to the completely awful; the security situation in Mali is declining. In a ‘deteriorating‘ security situation, AQIM have become bolder attacking UN and Malian military bases in what has become a very bloody few weeks. Attacks are occurring across the country; in the south and along the border with Mauritania – so not just in the north. The renewal of  the mandate of the UN peacekeeping  mission MINUSMA in July can be seen as a positive sign, though as the deployment enters its third year its ability to strengthen “the foundation” of sustainable and lasting peace is going to be exceptionally difficult. The foundation it refers to is the signing of a peace agreement several weeks ago that has taken a step towards peace between the government and some – but not all – groups. A crucial distinction. AQIM appears to have taken this void as an opportunity to ramp-up its presence and the government is feeling the pressure – President IBK recently scrapped a foreign state visit in response to the spike in violence.

 

Vieux Farka Toure – Walé

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Vieux Farka Toure – Future

This week we serve up another song from Vieux Farka Toure’s 2013 album ‘Mon Pays’. This time its the turn of the song ‘Future’ – one of many exceptionally good songs to come from that release. In this fun and fast paced song, Vieux plays alongside young kora prodigy Sidiki Diabate – someone who personally embodies the Malian “future”. Sidiki is the son of Toumani Diabate, the 71st member of a history-long tradition of passing down musical and artistic talent through generations. 700 years of history lies behind Sidiki, but his youth and success combined with the precarious situation in Mali means that his life itself is a delicate link, weighed with massive responsibility to continue this remarkable legacy.

Whether Sidiki senses such responsibility is hard to gauge; his music resonates such calm and grace, it is hard to imagine anyone with the ability to produce such beauty could be anything but completely at-ease with themselves and the world they have around them.

Vieux Farka Toure – Future

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Vieux Farka Toure – Peace

Mali is known as a predominantly Muslim country, yet Christmas is a public holiday. Not quite that bizarre if you remember that Jesus is a very important character in many religions, including both Islam and Christianity, and note that 5% of Malian’s are Christians. We must also consider the inevitable affects of centuries of European colonial occupation on the Malian calendar, although it is not clear when December 25th became a public holiday. Codifying religious occasions with public holidays can cause difficulties anywhere in the world,  for example this case from Bradford, UK involving a Muslim school-girl, Christmas Carols and Iranian-American academic Reza Aslan (who incidentally has spent parts of his life as both a practising Christian and Muslim).

It is with great warmth that this week’s song of the week is published, knowing tomorrow many of the world’s people, including Brits and Malian’s alike, will be holidaying at once, in whatever fashion suits them. What we must surely want for Christmas, and is captured beautifully by Vieux Farka Touré’s hymn-like music, is peace.

 

Merry Christmas.

 

 

Vieux Farka Toure – Peace

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

The Touré-Raichel Collective – Debo

Last month Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and Israeli pianist Idan Raichel releases their second album The Paris Session. The next instalment of this majestic collaboration was meant to entitled The Bamako Session, but prevailing logistical and security issues forced the pair into choosing the French capital instead.

As a result of not being as spontaneous as the pair’s first album The Tel-Aviv Session, during The Paris Session they took the opportunity to be even more experimental. More instruments are brought in (the addition of Niv Toar‘s exquisite trumpet being a particular favourite) and the production and choreography is more adventurous. The album also features a curious piano cover of Diaraby, the song Ali Farka Touré made famous in Talking Timbuktu.

Following the album’s release, much has been made of the significance of a Jew and a Muslim collaborating in this way. Both artists shrug this symbolism off. Reassuringly, its appears that this point hadn’t really occurred to them. Instead, Raichel uses different imagery that further presses-home the expansive and ground-breaking nature of the innovative music they make:

“I’m a musician from Israel, and I will always make Israeli music. And Vieux Farka Touré for me represents the spirit of Mali. I think world music artists by definition are people who reflect the soundtrack of the place they come from. I think that this collaboration between Mali and Israel—and remember we don’t even have diplomatic relations between the two countries—creates a new imaginary island located somewhere between Bamako and Tel Aviv.” 

This week’s Song of the Week is track 8 on the new album. Using the link below the song – along with the rest of the album – can be previewed by using the interface on the right-hand side. ‘Debo’ is the perfect example of the two musicians working together on their respective instruments in a call-and-response fashion, as if the instruments themselves are old friends  sharing the joy of being reunited.

The Touré-Raichel Collective – Debo

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

The Touré-Raichel Collective – Bamba

This week’s song comes from a unscripted, collaborative album comprised of Vieux Farka Touré and Israeli piano ‘superstar’ Idan Raichel, with mutual friend Yossi Fine on bass and Touré’s calabash player Souleymane Kane. Its an exceptional album for so many reasons. Firstly, Touré and Raichel met by chance in an airport in Germany in 2008. Raichel idolised Vieux’s father, Ali, and he was desperately excited to get something going between the pair. After a performance alongside him in Cartagena, Spain, Vieux developed strong respect for the Raichel’s global outlook and musical brilliance. Later, Vieux accepted Raichel’s invitation to be the first concert of his world music curatorship at the Tel Aviv Opera House. The day after this marvellous concert, where all four of the above musicians featured, Raichel and Touré headed to a friend’s recording studio and within a few hours had created the album The Tel Aviv Sessions.

Eric Herman, Vieux’s manager, was in the studio: “I was thinking to myself, ‘Alright, this is fun, a really nice little jam.’ Soon there were two of three tracks and I started to think ‘Hmm, maybe there will be something here we could use…’ After bout five or six amazing songs were laid down I said, ‘Wait a minute, we have a full album here!”

Eric explains that there were no expectations. It was really just a selection of musicians doing a jam, which during everyone involved, especially the musicians, soon realised was turning into something very special. “It was really the most fluid and pleasant recording experience…what struck me was the nakedness of it…this was entirely freeform – an open exchange.”

The album in total is an excellent, and perhaps only, example of Vieux Farka Touré’s acoustic talents. Other musicians that were stumped at the work that had been created were merged into some tracks at the stage where Idan was editing and smoothing out what had been made. For example, the Persian tar instrument on the track ‘Kfar’ was played by Yankele Segal. ‘Bamba’ – this week’s song – is the best example, in my opinion, of the fusing of piano and acoustic guitar from the album. Raichel provides one explaination for why the music weaves together so beautifully:

“The way that I play piano during the session comes from the kora…sometimes I’m using the strings of the piano, plucking them with my fingers like a harp, other times I’m beating the piano as if it was a drum. I use the piano as a whole instrument.”

All in all, the song is an incredible testament to the versatility of world music and the intelligence of its greatest exponents.It is amazing to think that ‘Bamba’ with so much beauty was created in a fragment of an afternoon. This song is also special as it featured as part of the music at my wedding, which was last Thursday. So forever it will have an exceptional meaning and have the ability to transport me to a very, very happy place.

The Touré-Raichel Collective – Bamba

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Vieux Farka Toure ft. Issa Bamba – Courage

Happy Birthday! The Mali Song of the Week is one year old this week. Vieux Farka Touré – a favourite of the Mali Interest Hub – provides a suitable party tune with ‘Courage’. In addition to Vieux’s sublime guitar and the wonderful rolling rhythm are the vocals of Issa Bamba, which really bring the song to life. It is a cool mix that makes this song a modern classic.

So, as Issa Bamba breaks into his rallying cry at the song’s 1 minute 33 second mark, its time to both take stock of all the music we have celebrated so far and to look forward to another year of the same. The musical landscape of Mali is changing all the time. The fall-out from the recent conflict and on-going political difficulties have provided inspiration for artists across the board – from rapper to griot – and has invited in new influences from around the world. Mobile phone ownership and internet activity is booming in Mali. Malian musicians have unprecedented access to each other and to the rest of the world, and they are already taking full advantage. At the same time, Mali’s global big-hitters continue to innovate, entertain and captivate in some of the most prestigious musical venues on Earth.

It is a wonderfully exciting time to be a fan of Malian music.

 

 

 

Vieux Farka Toure ft. Issa Bamba – Courage