One wonders if knowledge of his own mortality drove Toure to produce his two most beautiful and affecting albums-this superb epitaph and the extraordinary In The Heart of the Moon. Many artists knowing of their imminent demise might have retreated into a shell-instead Mr Toure left us these two magnificant heart-rending pieces of African music, encompassing the full breadth of his talent and knowledge, at once both acoustic and electric, heavenly and humane. If you are not inspired and awed by these two albums your heart is dead.
on 29 March 2007
'Savane' is the last album Ali Farka Toure recorded, and perhaps in the wake of his passing, the hyperbole surrounding this release reached a peak of superlatives-overload, with the estimable fRoots hailing it "the album of the decade". On that recommendation, and having loved an earlier AFT album ("Niafunke"), I ordered it.
It is fabulously atmospheric, genuinely otherworldly - listening to it takes you out into the Malian desert with Toure's bluesy riffs underpinning each of the tunes, and some harmonica and what sounds like a scratchy violin wailing like a desert wind over the top, a rattling kora drifting in and out and the man himself mumbling his hypnotic and heartfelt lyrics. You can almost feel the dust in your throat and the huge space around you (even in a bedroom in Durham).
But I had expected, from those ecstatic reviews, to be choking back tears of joy and awe and they just didn't come for me. I could be an ignorant oik, of course, but all the tracks have a similar pace and vibe, which may have been deliberate, but there just aren't any gobsmacking moments, apart from the wall of sound created during the tremendous opening track.
So, it's great and a fitting epitaph to the great man, but you know what music journalists are like... They've just got to get their quote on the sticker on the front, haven't they?
Listening to the haunting and beautiful music from "The King of the Desert 'Blues' Singers" Ali Farka Toure you realise what a sad loss he is to the world of music. How tragic that his life was cut so short when he was at the peak of his powers. One of my deep regrets was missing him performing live in London shortly before his death.
I must be honest here and say I only have two of his CDs. This one and "Niafunke". Niafunke is a remote village on the river Niger in Mali where Toure was born and lived. He even recorded "Niafunke" in this village. Of the two CDs I have to be honest and say that I find "Niafunke" to be an even more virtuoso piece of work. But "Savane" still has beautiful music throughout that seems to give off the heady scent of the desert.
Aside from visiting a museum about the Sahara in Marrakech, listening to Toure is about as close to that great desert as I am likely to get. It must have been a wonderful experience to hear the great man singing for the pleasure of himself and his friends in his desert home. That is how his very special musical gift would be best enjoyed. This is a beautiful note for him to leave on and is a fitting elegy to his work. Recommended.
on 18 July 2006
Savane is a superb epitaph to the late Ali Farka Toure's recording career. All of his releases have been a joy to listen to and this final album is no exception. It just somehow seems like it's the best thing he ever did - and in fact the great man himself said so. If you are a fan, then you will need no convincing. A truly enjoyable recording. Mr Toure, your music will endure.
on 23 October 2007
I have not heard any of this kind of African blues music before and I have to say I am intrigued - is this what blues was originally like, or something that has evolved as a fusion of blues and african music, or something different entirely.
Whatever it is, what is true is that listening and making music is worth more that analyzing it and writing about the results.
Ignore the reviews about it being the best blues album ever etc etc and just buy it and listen to it. It's a good, atmospheric, interesting record.