If you only buy one ‘world music’ album this year… you know the rest.
Angus Taylor 2007
The offspring of famous artists rarely fare well with their own musical ventures. And if your Dad was as legendary a figure as Ali Farka Touré, the chances of filling his shoes would seem slim indeed. Yet, with his eponymous debut, Ali’s son Vieux has revealed himself as an equally gifted guitarist with his own more accessible sound, which takes in contemporary styles such as dub and rock, while remaining true to his Malian roots.
As anyone who has seen him play live will attest, he’s a virtuoso, but like many of the greatest at his craft he knows it’s what you don’t play that counts, never sacrificing quality or timing for speed. He also values collaboration, enlisting for this project the skills of local luminaries such as kora player Toumani Diabaté (in whose band Vieux learned his trade), vocalist Issa Sory Bamba and his father, who made his last recordings for this album.
The results are varied in style but stunning in execution. “Ana” is lilting and authentic reggae, written for his sister. “Courage” (with Bamba) is an expansive, undulating rocker that builds to a wall of sound from a few roughly plucked notes of the ngoni (Malian lute), while Vieux and Diabaté get a myriad of variations you’d never think possible from a single poignant phrase in the closing jam, which bears the kora master’s name.
But Vieux Farka Touré is a good deal more than these constituent parts. Every track is necessary to the overall mood, and the entire album flows from one piece to the next as an integrated whole. So, while no one will ever take his father’s place in history, Vieux is entirely his own man. This is an astounding debut from a fully formed talent who’ll carry the family name far into the new century. If you only buy one ‘world music’ album this year… you know the rest.