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Awards for World Music 2007 - Album of the Year
Ali Farka Toure 'Savane'

(World Circuit WCD075)

The elastic thwack of deeply reverbed, firmly struck ngonis kicks off Erdi before the band powers its way into wall-of-sound action - Ali's clanging electric guitar, the wail of the one-string njarka fiddle, percussion (including Fain Dueñas from Radio Tarifa), and Little George Sueref's gutsy blues harmonica filling out the mix. It's tempting to evoke references to Memphis or Chicago in the early 1950s when somebody else's rural blues went seeking a bigger noise, but in truth this is timeless music, so solidly rooted in the Malian soil that you can smell the West African night.

By a strange trick of history it was exactly 20 years ago that we published my first review of an Ali Farka Toure album on Disques Esperance in fRoots, pondering on the mystery of this stark music from somewhere out there, and in what was possibly his first album review in English, the reference to blues was already made. The evocative cover of Savane makes the same link at the close of Ali's life, billing him indisputably as "The King Of The Desert Blues Singers", for that he surely was. And as Ali grew in our eyes and lives from a distant mirage to a solid, familiar being, so his music gained flesh and muscle. And here, in his final gift to us, everything comes together.

Some are simple pieces, full of desert air - the title track itself, for example. Here it's centred on Ali's laid-back, reflective guitar and vocal while Bassekou Kouyate's small ngoni spins high lines and Mama Sissoko pins down the funky end on the bass version. Totally sublime, a complete distillation of the man's music. Similarly, Ledi Coumba, driven by Dassy Sarre's thundering bass ngoni and with Little George wailing like Little Walter's lonesome ghost. The middle ground is filled withtracks like Beto, Ali spinning one of his circular riffs, Ramata Diakite contributing backing vocals and past collaborator Pee Wee Ellis squeezing out some deliciously simple sax riffs. And at the other end of the scale, the big band grinders like Erdi, Machengoidi and Banga, the latter trance-like with Yacouba Moumouni's Sonrai flute thickening the mix furher. But throughout, other than on the brief instrumental interlude of Hanana (virtuoso njarka, pounding bolon - bass harp - and percussion, plus Ali's foot) it's his guitar and voice with those ngoni giants laying the foundation, central, the key flavour.

If he had to leave us, this was the way to go. Savane is easily Ali Farka Toure's most fully realised album of his long career - the best possible legacy, surpassing all he's recorded before and in a quite visionary way. And with "classic", "collection cornerstone" and "an album of the decade" written all over it in invisible graffiti.

Ian Anderson
Review from fRoots magazine July 2006.

fRoots magazine
Read other people's comments then Tell us what you think:


Mounir, Leeds, UK
Ali Farka Toure's music heals the soul and nourishes the senses. The silence and intensity of the Sahara desert that his music brings into my being inspire me and make me more humane by enhancing the consciousness of my mind. His last album, Savane, carries pain, suffering, hope, love and eternity. Rahimaho Allah!

Freddie in Liverpool
I read Charles Bukowski to this music - they go together well - a little soul mixed with a little hardship!

Stuart, UK
Pee Wee Ellis (James Brown's saxophonist) who played on this album, is playing with Ali's son Vieux for the first time ever. The gig is in Frome, Somerset, UK (2hrs London, Birmingham) on Sunday 8th July 2007. It will also be Vieux's first headline gig in the UK with his full band. Some quotes from the press: Vieux says of the gig “Headlining in England is a major accomplishment. My father was first embraced internationally there, and throughout his career he was loved there. So, to be able to take the stage and feel the pride of continuing what he has done will be unforgettable.” And from Pee Wee: “Talk about your full circle! Sadly, in the past year we lost not only the great African bluesman Ali Farke Touré but also the man with whom I created funk, the Godfather of Soul, Mr James Brown. I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to work with them both. Now I’m excited to be part of the continuing heritage of both dynasties, by the opportunity to work with Ali’s son – and in my adopted UK hometown of Frome! The world gets smaller but the beat goes on.”It should be a great gig and really interesting to see how Ali's amazing legacy continues with the two of them working together for the first time. I wonder in what directions they might take the Desert Blues?

Sanjay Sen Twickenham UK
Just magical! Deep entrancing sound which reaches across continents.

Great stuff, and check out his son's new album. Vieux Farka Toure is carrying on the legacy. And he is here playing in the UK this year.

Mohamed Edris, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Ali is the spirit of african music!

Amy/ Nebraska USA
Love his music. I wish there was more african music in the USA.

Viviane, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Touching, moving, shaking, thrilling, uplifting! Up there with Robert Johnson, Son House, Skip James and the other venerated masters of the (old) blues. Thank you millions and may you somehow be compensated for the joy and serenity you so selflessly enriched our souls with!

Deborah Lacey, Suffolk
Ali Farke toure was a giant of the Malian Music Scene until his recent death and he ought to be honoured for his life's work not just one album. His work was not just music, he worked tirelessy for Mali and the right of his (and all) people to a life of dignity and self suffiency and many of his yrics are about just that. His music invokes the silence and intensity of the desert. I never got to see him perform 'live' and it is a deep regret. Somhow I believed he would go on forever as his music will. 'Savane' is like a summary of Ali's work.

Horri, Groningen, The Netherlands
Fanatstic music carrying very valuable messages! I can’t think of a better way Ali Farka Toure could have left us. What puts this album in a league of its own is, in my opinion, that the overwhelming trance present in each and every song is generated not simply by vocal and instrumental chords; it also comes directly from uncharted territories of the deeper soul. This is soul-healing music that can transport to the middel of the Savannah, the Sahara and the Sahel. Listening to this CD, I feel the heat in my hair, the sand in all my joints and the soothing wind in every inch of my soul… Although good music transcends the barriers of vernacular languages, I’d advise the listeners to pay attention to the lyrics. The songs are summarily translated or explained in the booklet. One, including myslef, may still not grasp the full range of the messages AFT transmits in this album. Nevertheless, (some of) his words have certainly the power to make open-minded people to indulge in more poetry and develop, if lacking, a strong taste for a much-needed engagement in human and envrironmental rights. No wonder this album has already been showered with praises and prizes by critics, fellow musicians and fans alike: Nominated for a Grammy, voted as the Album of the Year 2006 by the panel of experts from the World Music Chart Europe (WMCE), chosen as the 'Best Albums of 2006' by Metacritic and No. 5 in their all-time best reviewed albums! All well deserved!


finn bjerke norway
a lot of atmosphere but too little variation in the music.

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