We talk to the Malian legend about Ali, his collaborative album alongside Texas' Khruangbin.
I ask illustrious Malian guitarist and songwriter, Vieux Farka Touré, if he has made the right decision in becoming a musician. His father, Grammy nominated legend Ali Farka Touré, was famously against it at first.
“He had a lot of problems with record companies in the 80s—I think this was the big issue for him” Touré tells me, “But yes, I’m a great driver—could have done that but we don’t choose music, it chooses us”.
We are communicating on the phone to talk about his new release, which follows not long after this years Les Racines record, where he finally got to step out of his father's shadow to cement himself as a true Malian great; utterly commanding tracks such as "Gabou Nie Tie."
A few months later, there is now the album Ali, an 8-song collaboration with the buzzing Texan trioKhruangbin—formed by Mark Speer, Donald ‘DJ’ Johnson and Laura Lee. Theirs is a dubbed out but far more removed take on the desert sound.
“They have never been to Africa but it does not matter because music does not know any frontiers," Vieux mentions over the phone. As for what he thinks when I read him a YouTube comment where one fan exclaims ‘This is the African music we have been waiting for,’ The Malian laughs loudly. “That’s funny, but this is not an African record or an American record. It is a record that has been made by individuals." Ali is a project that was masterminded by Vieux Farka Touré’s manager and has had the required effect of carrying Touré’s voice further than ever before.
Vieux Farka Touré et Khruangbin - Diarabi (Official Video)www.youtube.com
"Diarabi," the album's lead single, is a song of forbidden love that breathes into your ear like a cheating partner flatly asking for forgiveness through their teeth. Other standouts like "Tongo Barre" snap at you with a solid funk to take you to the stars and back. Touré’s vocals are not to be messed with either—there is a serene holiness in each utterance that somehow manages to groove between serious and playfulness, but Ali is a record that in too many places feels like it was made by a tribute act that rely way too much on sentimentality.
“Of course, I am sentimental” Touré says, “Anyone who says they are not is not being honest with you or with themselves.”
In every collaboration there has to be a solid destination point—where you are finally pushed out of your comfort zone. “I learned many things from Khruangbin in our time together, not just one thing. I was very impressed with their style of working, of interacting with each other and with me,” Touré says “just observing them on the road, how they operate with such a big production on tour. That was very cool for me to see. They are such cool people and handle it all so smoothly.”
Their cool smooth sound will hopefully pave the way for more exciting collaborations for Touré in the future. “I love to have exchanges with different kinds of artists from all over the world,” says the Malian legend. “I just keep an open heart and wait for the next opportunity to present itself."