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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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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 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 27 October 2009
When I saw the confirmation email from Amazon for my girlfriend for this album I thought "not more West African music...haven't we got enough", but from the opening cords I was transported back to lazy days that she and I spent together in Segou, Mopti, Niafunke and Timbuktu drifting metaphorically and (sometimes) literally along the River Niger. Malian music seems to encapsulate the spirit of the country in the same way that Spanish and Cuban music encapsulate the spirit of those countries, but none more so than this album. If you've never been to Mali, just put this album on and you can claim to understand what the spirit of the country is all about. I hesitate to describe this album as genius, but only becasue it's an overused expression, but what I wouldn't hesitate to describe it as is pure magic.
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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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on 29 June 2005
This album shows again why Ali Farka Toure is the leading man in >Malian music. Playing together with the kora player Diabate they present almost effortless and natural improvisation. A must...
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on 9 July 2006
This album is simply divine. Mamadou Boutiquier is exceptional, i played this track to my wife, who is not usually into this style of music, and she was moved by it. This is an album for dreamers and lovers of sublime, soul enriching music..if you like Ali Farka Toure and do not yet have this album i suggest you buy it.
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on 23 January 2008
This album is a must have for anyone with a taste for African music and a very good introduction for those who would like to know more about it and don't know where to start. The duet between Ali Farka Toure on the guitar and Toumani Diabate on the kora, two of the greatest Malian musicians, is sublime. Listening to this CD will take you on a sail boat trip watching the peaceful landscape of River Niger without any environmental cost. I've had an enthusiastic response from anyone I played this CD to. This album is a great gift idea too.
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on 30 June 2005
Radio3 was analysing/describing the capturing of tracks in Africa, turned out to be Mali, turned out to be AFK and TD.
I just heard the two names mentioned in one sentence, raced to this page and ordered. That was four/five days ago. Now on sixth hearing it is my top CD.
It does help if you know 'Talking Timbuktu' and 'New Ancient Strings'.
Their sleeve says this music is inspired by styles from the 1950's era. I would put its effects back one or two millenia. Probably humans never lived without aggression, but this music seems to come from pre-greco-judeo-christian culture and displays human soulfulness without trace of aggression.
I certainly am glad I could be introduced to this in summer breathing warm fresh air. Their music sounds as if it comes from the ultimate source of calm summer zephyrs.
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on 30 July 2005
Picture the most beautiful place on Earth in your mind's eye and this music is evocative of it. The crystal tones of the Kora playing of Toumani Diabate' become like a clear mountain stream. The guitar work of Ali Farka Toure' embodies the life that inhabits these same waters. An excerpt from a thousand years of musical history infused into the most melodic and relaxing sounds I've ever heard.
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