Photo: Kiss Diouara.

Vieux Farka Touré Finds Truth In His Roots In 'Les Racines'

The legendary Malian guitarist's new album is a journey that has taken him home, bursting with love.

Vieux Farka Touré embraces his heritage on his new album Les Racines. Translated as 'The Roots,' the new album rings out with the traditional northern Mali sounds of Songhai Music made famous by his late father, Ali Farka Touré. As the son who has spent a lifetime establishing his own identity as a musician, it took the lockdowns of the Covid pandemic for Vieux Farka Touré to reconnect with the 'desert blues' and create a record that yearns for his people to come together in a country that is troubled with the ceaseless violence of tribal and ethnic tensions. Les Racines is a journey that has taken him home, bursting with love.

The 41-year-old singer and guitarist had to battle for his father's acceptance to allow him to follow in his footsteps. The blessing, finally being given when Ali Farka Touré laid down tracks on his son's eponymous debut album, Vieux Farka Touré, in 2007. His father's initial reticence has had a long-lasting impression on the choices Vieux Farka Touré has made throughout his career. Pushing the boundaries of Western African music with collaborations with musicians such as Dave Matthews, jazz guitarist John Schofield and an album with American singer-songwriter Julia Easterlin, he has until now ploughed his own furrow.

On Les Racines, a host of world-class musicians from Mali, West and Central Africa and the U.S including Amadou & Miriam, Moussa Dembelé, Marshall Henry and Cheick Tidiane Seck help deliver the album's message in a way that he explains is to "not abandon the past."

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Photo: Jamie Kelter Davis.

Mdou Moctar Treads Lightly On 'Afrique Refait' Remix Album

The Niger guitarist and songwriter gets remixed by many of Africa's cutting-edge electronic producers in Afrique Refait.

Mdou Moctar, Niger's maverick songwriter, puts down his guitar and lets others have a go on the release of Afrique Refait—a remix of last year's outstanding Afrique Victime LP on US imprint Matador Records.

An album that blazes with the crystallized energy of the Sahara: Afrique Victime stands up as a furious attack on the French military's presence in his home region of the Sahel and takes the listener on a psychedelic death trip—from fury to genuine sorrow and back again.

Moctar has gone from local hero in his city of Agadez to international acclaim; having his music widely shared on Bluetooth from one cellphone to another in Niger, to being constantly on the road across the U.S. and the rest of the world. His 2015 Rain the Color of Blue with A Little Red In It, a remake of Prince's Purple Rain movie, set in the desert rather than in Minneapolis was outrageously inspiring and demonstrated that he could more than live up to the bill as a challenging artist with universal appeal.

Afrique Refait, which seems to be driven by Moctar's producer and bassist Mikey Coltun, takes the album away from the infinite cosmos and into the studios of many of Africa's cutting-edge electronic producers. As a means to support and bring attention to African artists as well as keeping Afrique Victime in the spotlight, it manages to largely offer only a spotty take on the original songs and damp evidence to what these artists are capable of when creating music from scratch.

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