RIP Ali Farka Toure
African bluesman Ali Farka Toure dies in his sleep
Tue Mar 7, 2006 4:22 PM GMT168
By Tiemoko Diallo and Gamer Dicko
BAMAKO (Reuters) - Malian blues singer and guitarist Ali Farka Toure,
one of Africa's best loved musicians, died in his sleep at home on
Tuesday after a long fight with bone cancer. He was in his late 60s.
Dubbed "the African John Lee Hooker", the Grammy-winning bluesman was
among West Africa's most internationally successful artists, winning
acclaim around the world for his 1994 album "Talking Timbuktu",
recorded with Texan guitarist Ry Cooder.
"Ali was for Mali, for Africa and for the rest of the world a very
great musician. A musician who leaves behind him a fabulous heritage,"
said Culture Minister Cheick Oumar Sissoko.
"We are receiving phone calls and emails from around the world today,"
he said on Malian state radio.
Farka Toure, who was born in 1939 but did not know his exact date of
birth, won a second Grammy last month for "In the Heart of the Moon",
recorded with his countryman Toumani Diabate and voted best
traditional world music album.
He had just finished work on a new solo album when he died.
"An exceptional guitarist, he transposed the traditional music of his
native north Mali and single-handedly brought the style known as
desert blues to an international audience," World Circuit, the label
that produces his music, said in a statement.
Radio stations interrupted their programmes to broadcast his hypnotic
music. Some played homages from listeners and fellow musicians around
the impoverished West African nation, which stretches across the
southern edge of the Sahara desert.
"LION OF THE DESERT"
Though he achieved international renown later in his career, Farka
Toure's life and music remained deeply rooted in the traditions of his
home village, Niafunke, which lies in barren savannah near the fabled
Saharan trading town of Timbuktu.
He retreated from music to concentrate on his rice farm in 1990. When
his producer convinced him to record again, an impromptu studio
running on generators had to be set up in the village so he could tend
his fields at the same time.
He was appointed mayor of Niafunke, where he will be buried, in 2004
in recognition of his efforts to improve the agricultural and social
situation of those living in the region.
"He's one of the great, great, great musicians. Nobody does what Ali
does. He is one of a kind: he is the lion of the desert," kora player
Toumani Diabate wrote in the liner notes to "In the Heart of the
Farka Toure, who took up the guitar at the age of 10, toured often in
North America and Europe, adapting influences from jazz, blues and the
traditional songs of West Africa's Songhai, Mande and Tuareg cultures.
"All this music inspired Ali Farka, and he enriched all these
traditions," Culture Minister Sissoko said.
But fiercely proud of his native country, Farka Toure never allowed
outside influences to dilute his musical heritage.
"We were in the middle of the landscape which inspired the music and
that in turn inspired myself and the musicians. My music is about
where I come from and our way of life," Farka Toure was quoted as
saying of his 1999 album, Niafunke.
"In the West, perhaps this music is just entertainment and I don't
expect people to understand. But I hope some might take the time to
listen and learn."
(Additional reporting by Nick Tattersall in Dakar)