Guy Lochhead, 11/09/10
Malian “musician-farmer”, mayor and teacher. Born in Niafunké, Toure never left his roots, despite enormous crossover world music success. In 2004, he became mayor of Niafunké and used the money he had made to regenerate his impoverished homeland. He planted trees, improved irrigation and wastewater treatment, and supported women’s and youth associations, as well as bringing pride to its inhabitants. Now, every evening, farmers get together and play long guitar pieces together. His success as an international musician can be put down to his blues-y guitar tone, driving rhythms and sparse backing, which led first-world critics to label him a Malian John Lee Hooker, which isn’t true by any means, and betrays a horrible sort of close-mindedness. Still, it was his ability to balance that popular, alien consumption of his music with his roots that is so exciting to me. I’m sure that life in Niafunké isn’t nearly as idyllic as I’ve made it sound, but It seems as though Ali Farka had a fantastic attitude towards fame, wealth and heritage. I will include ‘Talking Timbuktu’, which was his most well-received album. Although Ali Farka was more enthusiastic about his penultimate album, ‘In The Heart Of The Moon’, I feel as though it would be truer to what I find particularly interesting about his life to include the former, Grammy-winning, album. It was his biggest mainstream hit, and included collaborations with Ry Cooder. This symbolises the crossover success that brought him the money enabling him to make a difference to his community.