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The extraordinarily talented Malian guitarist and singer-songwriter Ali Farka Toure will probably have come to the attention of most western music lovers through his 1994 release Talking Timbuktu
, which featured Ry Cooder
. Since that time he has stayed almost exclusively in Mali, working on his farm. He felt that touring and working abroad were undermining the bond with his homeland and the productive work which were central to both his happiness and artistic creativity. Thus Niafunke
--the name of his village--was recorded on site using only friends and local musicians. The sound is generally more stripped down than Talking Timbuktu
, but Ali Farka Toure's gorgeously ornate yet flowing guitar style still guides you every step of the way and the extraordinary space and texture of the music is still as overwhelming as ever. The difference lies deeper--as he himself says, "this record is more real, more authentic". Both albums have soul, but this one required no translation of musical forms or explanations--it speaks pure and straight from the heart of all the musicians involved. --James Swift