07 March 2006

Ali Farka Toure

Today, one of Mali's musical sons died from complications of heart disease and diabetes. To Mali, it is comparable to the death of Elvis Presley or John Lennon. Farka, as he was known here, was the first African to win a Grammy Award in 1993 for his compliation "Talking Timbuktu" with Ry Cooder (of "Buena Vista Social Club" fame). And he didn't stop there. He then won another Grammy in 2006 in his compliation with the coura whiz Toumani Diabate "The Heart of the Moon." He has been described by his friends as a true nationalist, someone who adored all things Mali. To wit, he even owned and operated a hotel in his hometown of Niamfunke, near Timbuktu.

His declining health in the past few months prohibited him from touring and playing here in Mali, so I never got the chance to hear him play live. The non-stop tributes played here over the past couple of days serve as an adequate, albeit not-exactly-the-same, subsititute for a live performance. I highly encourage all of you to check out his music and see why many beleive that West African music, and Malian music in general, is the progenitor for our blues and jazz.


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