On Radio 3 Now

In Tune

16:30 - 17:30

Sean Rafferty presents a selection of music and guests from the arts world.

Next On Air

17:30 Opera on 3

View full schedule

Awards for World Music 2007 - Africa
Ali Farka Toure (image by Youri Lenquette)

Ali Farka Toure album cover
Malian musician Ali Farka Toure’s passing from cancer (aged 66) in March 2006 attracted major obituaries in The Guardian, Independent and Times (New York & London) alongside TV coverage on BBC1’s Newsnight and Channel 4 News. Not bad for an illiterate farmer from one of the world’s poorest nations who never chased after musical success and seemed to view his international achievements (two Grammy awards, over a million CDs sold, championed by the likes of Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt) with a certain contempt: Toure was a proud African and his experience of the West only served to convince him it was spiritually bereft. Spirit is an important word when discussing Toure – he spoke regularly of spirits inhabiting his music and, while a Muslim, remained strongly attached to West African animist beliefs.

You can hear the spirits calling on his very last album, Savane (released after his death in 2006). Here Toure sings and lays down eerie guitar patterns while surrounded by ngoni and calabash and Pee Wee Ellis’s muted saxophone. The atmosphere’s heavy with ritual, African trance music burning through the night. Toure, like many guitarists of his generation, learnt from American blues and soul recordings. Nicknamed the “African John Lee Hooker”, his music possesses a hypnotic blues drone, drawing the listener into an African netherworld, one strange yet intoxicating, harsh but beautiful, desert blues.

Savane is equal to Toure’s finest recordings, music that stands outside time, empowered with lived experience. Toure was an African giant, a musician who prefered to stay home in Niafunke, using his royalties to develop the village’s agriculture. That two albums of his recordings were released on a small French label in the 1980s and thus brought Toure to the attention of BBC DJ Andy Kershaw who then introduced Toure’s music to the fledgling World Circuit label who brought Ali to Europe and so introduced him to the West is one of those engaging coincidences that the universe sometimes throws up. Ali Farka Toure is gone – long live the music of Ali Farka Toure!

Garth Cartwright

Ali Farka Toure on the web
Album Review on bbc.co.uk/music
Read other people's comments then Tell us what you think:

Umar, NY
Was fortunate to witness his last concert at the Barbican in london, it was a great joy to see the master at work. We will surely miss him RIP

Kwame, Nottingham
Ali Farka is the human embobement of blues. Farka is compared to none. I am an african and I can say only a few musicians have made africa pround and Ali is without a doubt one of them. who ever said blues came from the states should go listen to Ali Farka. Like the great man said "the blues is nothin but indeginous african music" and he definately embodied that saying. Rest in Peace to the Great Ali Farka your music will live on even after generations to come.

divyesh, Lincoln
When I die and they lay me to rest I want his music to lift me to the sky....

Pavy, Tokyo
Brilliant desert blues.

i witnessed Ali opening for King Sunny Ade in Austin once upon a time, and there i beheld the manifestation of the spirit which enabled him to embrace the multiple spheres he dwelt within.

eamon maguire Ireland
savane just arrived a birthday present i am very much involved in irish music but ali has a touch of real class.

Andrew Jowett, Shrewsbury
Brilliant! The soul of West Africa brought to our homes. Distinctive and timeless, I hope his lifetime achievements are recognised this year.

Maria, Buenos Aires
I agree with Robin. With all due respect to all musicians, just a few artists can parallel Toure's creations, character and influence. For this reason and also because of (lack) of internet connections of the audience, the competetion here wouldn't be fair. This is why I second Regan's suggestion here to give a lifetime achievement award to this extraodinary man.

Yoshina, Mauritius
Simply amazing. The music speaks to one's soul. A great loss to music.

Robin, Austin, Texas
Is this a joke or is the BBC losing its legendary professionalism? Who can compete with Ali Farka Toure? Only superhumans like Johnny Cash, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan and the likes can be compared with this giant of a musician and a jewel of a man.

Won Lee, Hong Kong
My 12-16 year old pupils who became familiar with him through music lessons were devastated by his death; so was I, a longtime fan. Although the number of records he released (about 10 CD's) is limited for his long career, his work and its impact are collossal and will resonate for ages. We've lost a genius!

John, Dublin
We were lucky to see and hear Ali Farka Toure play in the Hackney Empire around 1991/2..he was a bit grumpy initially as there must have been some problem with the sound but that was quickly forgotten when he got into his style and blew us away into the night..wonderful musician who leaves us with a wealth of beautiful music and memories

Sun, South Korea
Very good. I like it!

Regan, London
I think a SPECIAL lifetime-achievement type Award should be given to this amazing man! What loss to world music.

Simple and beautiful

Vladimir, Daugavpils, Latvia
Marvellous musician with a strong and sincere message. "Where there is injustice in the wold, music must point out"! If a fraction of the celebrities were as talented and socially conscious as Ali was, we'd have better music and a better world.

Lize, New York
No words can describe how much respect and appreciation people of all colors and generations have for Ali Farka's mesmerising work and personality. I am not sure he'd care, but he certainly deserves the award. R.I.P.

Horri, Netherlands
Ali Farka Toure's passing is a major loss: Loss of a unique man and artist brimming with virtuosity, wisdom, humility and humanity. Not surprised that the lords were craving for exclusive concerts by him. RIP!

Tell us what you think:

Your Name and Location:

Your comment:

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.