It sounds like an established partnership made in heaven, demonstrating the kind of...
Jon Lusk 2004
This long-awaited album of duets by two giants of Mali's music scene is a gem that unites two major streams of traditional West African music. The desert blues of guitarist Ali Farka Touré draws heavily on the northern Songrai/Peul culture, while kora maestro Toumani Diabaté is from the southern Mandé culture. And although it sounds like an established partnership made in heaven, demonstrating the kind of rapport that usually only comes from years spent playing together, it's actually their first significant collaboration. That's virtuosity for you.
Brought together in a makeshift studio for the very first time by producer Nick Gold, they recorded three short unrehearsed sessions over consecutive days, revisiting a repertoire of Malian songs that mostly date from the late 50s and early 60s, known to both through familial, professional and folkloric connections some of which go back several centuries. The minimal accompaniment of percussion, bass, guitar and keyboard added later generally enhances rather than intrudes on their wonderfully flowing, acoustic meditations, with Toumani Diabaté's rippling kora taking most of the melodic leads, and the guitar providing backing. So it's really a kora album, with Ali only occasionally soloing or adding the odd spoken word comment.
The last three tracks are new versions of songs from Ali Farka Touré's back catalogue, with only the slightly stiff version of "Hawa Dolo" a disappointment if compared to the breathtaking original on his best album, The Source. Elsewhere, this is a gorgeous instant classic, up there with Toumani Diabaté's best work on New Ancient Strings and Kaira.
These are two artists who seem to subscribe to the less is more philosophy, both in the sparseness of their arrangements and the frequency of their releases. So it's exciting news that both also have full band albums due shortly after this and that there's another collaboration in the pipeline...