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4.4 out of 5 stars38
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 25 November 2005
I've got most of Ali Farka Toure's and Toumani Diabate's catalogue and some of what they have done rates among my favourite music. Ever. I have seen them both live. And without a shadow, I would consider them to be among the most pre-eminent musicians working today. Reason enough to hugely look forward to this recording.
It's easy, though, to get carried away by hyperbole. They themselves know this; in Africa, musicians may be respected or even revered (as these two rightly are), but there is no cult of the superstar, no adulation or pretension. I think it's similarly easy to exaggerate the quality of musicianship on this recording - it's not the best that either have produced in the past. Which isn't surprising, considering that this is essentially a jam session! And I know I'm being a snob here, but to me the World Circuit treatment rankles - the occasional washes of electric piano and bass are, as ever, exquisitely tasteful and discreet - but the music is so strong, it just doesn't need this kind of support.
I read a review which said, this record is like taking an amiable walk with your two favourite uncles, one genial and laid-back, the other more prone to excitable flurries of talk. If you're looking for something inspirational, this ain't it. This is just very pleasant. Which sounds like an insult - again, it ain't. It's a compliment. These guys have both done blow-me-over inspirational (The Source, New Ancient Strings) and it's nice to take a break from that level of intensity.
So, four stars for what I have called a "nice, pleasant" recording. For the full five star, breathless can't-recommend-it-strongly-enough thing PLEASE check out Ballake Sissoko's latest (Tomora)! He's not as well known, but this disc is absolutely glorious.
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on 9 March 2006
This is a rare feast! Two of Mali’s finest musicians getting together for a couple of jamming sessions! There were no rehearsals, just immediate harmony, understanding of the music and each musician exhibiting appreciation of the other. Both artists brought their rich repertoire with them, one leading the other into a melody they both knew and off they went… creative improvisation combined with virtuosity of their two instruments, guitar and kora. The backup team included no other than famous American guitarist Ry Cooder and his son Joachim.
IN THE HEART OF THE MOON may have taken a few hours to record, but the build up to this first musical encounter of Mali’s musical giants took many years. Listening to them play, you wouldn’t believe either time span. Having met and heard them both play in informal settings, I can imagine the sessions, the wordless intuitive exchange through eye contact and gestures. The result is, as they say, magic! According to the accompanying notes, they themselves were surprised how well each understood the musical culture of the other. Both could adapt their playing style to the other’s requirements. It demanded completely new harmonies on Toumani’s kora – it softened the voice of Ali’s guitar. Toumani’s comment: “This is a record of music that did not exist before!” It melds the different musical traditions of two distinct Malian cultures.

Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté have both been household names of Mali music for a long time. One is famous as Mr. Blues and the other admired as Mr. Kora. Their styles are rooted in their respective ethnic cultures: Ali comes from the northern Songraï and Toumani from a long line of (southern) Mandé griot tradition. They are also from two generations. Toumani admired Ali’s music as a child. “Toumani is a child born in my hands” says Ali in the notes. He played with Toumani’s father, Sidiki Diabaté, also a famous kora virtuoso.
This album features by and large traditional compositions, most of them instrumental, some adapted by Ali for guitar, and one composed by Toumani dedicated to Ali on his election to Mayor of his hometown Niafunké. Those familiar with Malian music will recognize many of the tunes and enjoy the beauty of their interpretations. Those unfamiliar with its rich repertoire will find this album and excellent introduction. Just one warning – you will want to buy more recordings of both artists. [Friederike Knabe]
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on 13 July 2005
I first heard about this recording on one of the BBCs morning radio programmes and liked the snippet I heard then enough to order the CD. There is only one word to describe this recording. It is MAGICAL. I have only had it two days and am playing it all the time. If you want music to lift your spirits this is it. I'd give it more stars if I could. I would urge anyone to buy it.
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on 11 September 2005
Imagine the scene: lunchtime in a small kitchen, kids moaning (when not shouting and screaming), mum rapidly losing patience... and then I put THIS on the CD player. The idea was really to calm myself down, but the effect on the whole family was almost unnerving. I don't know which track came on first (possibly the gentle Hawa Dolo)but the kitchen which just half a second ago had been chaotic, suddenly fell perfectly silent. And stayed so. The 5-year olds were mesmerized, as was the put-upon mum, as, indeed, was I. What did it? Possibly the sheer complexity of the music - or possibly its clarity; no doubt its authority - this, after all, is authoritative music; but most probably something else, some added value which it would be ridiculous to attempt to describe. Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté have gone beyond mere fine musicianship on this album: they are performing magic.
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on 6 March 2008
I know little about world music and came to buy this having heard Toumani Diabaté's contributions to the Damon Albarn's co-authored Mali Music. I can see that some of the reviews here from the world music community have levelled accusations that this album is rather bland and that it has been watered-down to render it inoffensive for the wider music-buying community. Others have said that it is background music and that the musicians' playing is quite average and uninspired by their standards. From a layman's point of view, I cannot question the authenticity of the recording but can attest to the beauty of the music. If the accusation is that it is too simple, then my argument would be that simplicity is not necessarily a bad thing. The interplay between the guitarists is repetetive but rather hypnotic and certainly atmospheric. It is true that it doesn't always hold the attention, but the grooves often have an insistence that find a way of worming their way back into the consciousness. The mood is pretty invariable, and there are not really any singular moments to point to, but this is heartwarming, becalming stuff that you can really abandon yourself to if in the right mood. Let yourself be carried away.
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on 28 June 2005
All I can say is: "World Circuit" produces the best albums
I have ever heard. This one is no exception.
Two of the best african musicians together:
Ali Farka Toure on acoustic guitar and Toumani Diabate on Kora.
Guests: Ry Cooder and Cachaito Lopez from Buena Vista Social
Very relaxed and improvising music.
As I first heard it I had to hear it again immediately.So beautiful it is.
Most of the songs are instrumentals but all masterpieces.
Buy it soon!!!
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on 5 August 2005
This is timeless, and in a sense, placeless music. Despite the origin it resonates with a universal beauty and quality. The two players weave and mingle, improvising and palpably enjoying the muscial liason.
The album flows from track to track, lifted by some well-chosen but sparse instrumentation as it develops.
Softer than 'Talking Timbuktu' and probably richer than 'New Ancient Strings', this is a worthwhile addition to the collection lovers of African music for sure, but it deserves a wide audience and appreciation.
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This 2005 Grammy-winner featured the late, great blues guitarist Ali Farka Toure (no. 76 in Rolling Stone's table of the `Greatest Guitarists of All Time') who died in 2006 of bone cancer; and Kora player Toumani Diabate.

Both these excellent musicians are from Mali (though from different regions and traditions) and the album was recorded in a mobile studio in the Hotel Mande in Bamako, on the banks of the River Niger. The great world music enthusiast and promoter Ry Cooder also plays on some tracks.

The music is mainly instrumental, quite sophisticated and very mellow. In the manner of world-class jazz musicians Toure and Diabate (and Cooder, at times) respond to each other to weave delicate improvisational patterns and make great relaxing music.

This album can be recommended if you like West African music or even if you don't know the music from Mali very well. There was a follow-up album from these two simply called `Ali Farka Toure and Toumane Diabate' recorded in London just prior to Toure's death which is so outstanding it eclipses even `In the Heart of the Moon', and for that reason only I would give four-and-a-half stars to ItHotM rather than five.

The CD is a fine package with a tasteful 16-page booklet featuring short essays about the project penned by Lucy Duran, Nick Gold and separately by both Diabate and Toure, and decorated with some evocative and rather arty images of Mali.
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on 12 December 2013
Some reviewers have criticized this album for being too 'bland', but I cannot agree. African music has been modified by European influences in many ways (as European music has been influenced by African ideas), the well tempered tuning is heard everywhere now, except in some Asian music. What I find interesting about this album is that it mixes the traditional African 'call and response' metier with the European 'theme and variations', and it does it very cleverly. Often we see a 'response' cast as a variation on the call, with subsequent responses moving towards, and away from the original call. It would interesting to see the music in written form to see exactly what they have done, but some pieces have a near fugal feel to them (although they are not fugues). As an example of the unexpected in this album, 'Ai Ga Bani' is Nuevo Tango. Nuevo Tango framed around call and response?

Perhaps it sounds bland to younger ears, but this is two elderly gentlemen playing, one of whom knew he was dying, and the preference for reflection and subtlety comes through.

It bears comparison with 'Talking Timbuktu', which is completely different in its approach but is similarly a synthesis of African and American musical thinking.
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on 4 April 2013
I fell in love with the kora when I saw Catrin Finch, harpist, performing together with Seckou Keita on kora. The kora sound, softly thrumming below the sometimes jangly harp, entranced me. This album produces the same feeling, with the hypnotic repetition of the base note providing the rhythm while the harmonies weave above it. It is soothing music, with a warm glow but also a lifting of the spirits, and gives a lilt to my step if I am going about my chores while listening. It is never obtrusive or overpowering, but I drink in every note, it is not background music. These two master musicians clearly gain energy from each other and creatively spur each other on. This has shot to the top of my favourite CD's, and everyone who hears it wants to know what it is, even my notably un-musical partner.
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