Ali Farka Touré: Sidi Gouro
Ali Farka Touré (guitar, vocals)
Red & Green (Nonesuch 79882)
Ali Farka Touré (guitar, vocals),
Hammer Sankare (vocals, calabash).
Composed by Ali Farka Touré.
Recorded: Bamako, Mali, no date given (music originally released in 1988; reissue released in 2004)
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
Ali Farka Touré has sometimes been called the "John Lee Hooker of Africa." Such a description tells us how crazy our musical genealogies have become. After decades of tracing the blues back to Africa, we are now tracing African music back to the blues. Yes, Touré's music is somewhat reminiscent of Hooker's hypnotic solo guitar work from the late 1940s and early 1950s, but the Malian musician captures a serenity in his performances that one will never find in American blues. The Green album (original cover shown to the left) is one of Touré's masterpieces, and finally available in a widely distributed reissue after many years as a rare collector's item. This opening track is so relaxed in ambiance, despite the fast underlying 6/8 pulse, that you might not pick up the deep melancholy of the lyrics, which translate as a sorrowful tribute to a friend from Touré's youth. In translation they read: As soon as I sit down my heart begins to weep. When I start to think, my heart begins to bleed. . . . And here we do find an uncanny parallel with early blues, that troubled performance art of introspective and largely unmediated self-expression in which personal tragedy was somehow transmuted into a commercial product. If you are looking for powerful songs that disdain the slickness, the market-driven focus, the chart-seeking vanity of our times, this is a recording that you will want to have.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia