Ali Farka Touré

Ali Farka Touré

Infobox musical artist
Name = Ali Farka Touré

Img_capt = Ali Farka Touré with electric guitar
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Ali Ibrahim “Farka” Touré
Alias =
Born = Birth date|1939|10|31
Timbuktu, Mali
Died = Death date and age|2006|3|7|1939|10|31
Bamako, Mali
Origin =
Instrument = Vocals, Guitar, Calabash, Njarka
Genre = Blues
Label = World Circuit
Associated_acts =

Ali Ibrahim “Farka” Touré (October 31, 1939 – March 7, 2006) was a Malian singer and guitarist, and one of the African continent’s most internationally renowned musicians. His music is widely regarded as representing a point of intersection of traditional Malian music and its North American cousin, the blues. The belief that the latter is historically derived from the former is reflected in Martin Scorsese’s often quoted characterization of Touré’s tradition as constituting "the DNA of the blues". Touré was ranked number 76 on "Rolling Stone"'s list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time."


He was born in 1939 in the village of Kanau on the banks of the Niger River, in the cercle of Gourma Rharous in the northwestern Malian region of Tombouctou, and his family moved to the nearby village of Niafunké when he was still an infant. He was the tenth son of his mother but the only one to survive past infancy. “The name I was given was Ali Ibrahim, but it’s a custom in Africa to give a child a strange nickname if you have had other children who have died,” Touré was quoted as saying in a biography on his Record Label, World Circuit Records. His nickname, “Farka”, chosen by his parents, means “donkey”, an animal admired for its tenacity and stubbornness. “Let me make one thing clear. I’m the donkey that nobody climbs on!” He was descended from the ancient military force known as the Arma, and was ethnically tied to the Songrai (Songhai) and Peul peoples of northern Mali.

As the first African bluesman to achieve widespread popularity on his home continent, Touré was often known as “the African John Lee Hooker”. Musically, the many superpositions of guitars and rhythms in his music were similar to John Lee Hooker’s hypnotic blues style. He usually sang in one of several African languages, mostly Songhay, Fulfulde, Tamasheq or Bambara as on his breakthrough album, "Ali Farka Touré", which established his reputation in the world music community. 1994’s "Talking Timbuktu", a collaboration with Ry Cooder, sold promisingly well in western markets but was followed by a hiatus from releases in America and Europe. He reappeared in 1999 with the release of "Niafunké", a more traditional album focusing on African rhythms and beats. Touré was the mentor and uncle of popular Malian musician Afel Bocoum.

Some of Ali Farka Touré’s songs and tunes have been used in different programmes, films and documentaries [] . For instance, his guitar riff on the song “Diaraby,” from the album "Talking Timbuktu", was selected for the Geo-quiz segment of "The World" PRI-BBC program, and was retained by popular demand when put to a vote of the listeners. This song is likewise used in 1998 as a soundtrack for the film "L’Assedio" ("Besieged") by the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci. His songs "Cinquante six", "Goye Kur" and "Hawa Dolo" from the album "The Source" are also used as a soundtrack in the French film "Fin août, début septembre" (Late August, Early September) directed in 1998 by Olivier Assayas.

In 2004 Touré became mayor of Niafunké and spent his own money grading the roads, putting in sewer canals and fuelling a generator that provided the impoverished town with electricity.

In September 2005, he released the album "In the Heart of the Moon", a collaboration with Toumani Diabaté, for which he received a second Grammy award. His last album, "Savane", was posthumously released in July 2006. It was received with wide acclaim by professionals and fans alike and has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the category “Best Contemporary World Music Album”. The panel of experts from the World Music Chart Europe (WMCE), a chart voted by the leading World Music specialists around Europe, chose "Savane" as their Album of the Year 2006, with the album topping the chart for three consecutive months (September to November 2006). The album has also been listed as No. 1 in the influential Metacritic’s “Best Albums of 2006” poll, and No. 5 in their all-time best reviewed albums. Ali Farka Touré has also recently been nominated for the BBC Radio 3 awards 2007.

On 7 March 2006 the Ministry of Culture of Mali announced his death at age 66 in Bamako from bone cancer, against which he had been battling for some time. His record label, World Circuit, said that he recorded several tracks with his son Vieux Farka Touré for Vieux’s debut album which was released in fall, 2006.

Cultural references

* In the French film "The Spanish Apartment" (2002) two characters are seen playing air guitar to “Ai Du”.
* In the movie "Unfaithful" (2002), Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez slow dance to “Ai Du.”
* In the French film "Irma Vep" (1996), Maggie Cheung and Nathalie Richard ride an old motorcycle down the quay to Touré’s song “Soukoura.”
* In the 2005 travel film “Michael Palin: SAHARA” his music is heard in a scene about Nigerian nomads
*"The World," a radio show distributed by Public Radio International, uses the song "Diaraby" as the theme to their Geoquiz. The song is a collaboration between Touré and Ry Cooder; the song is featured on their "Talking Timbuktu" album.
* In 2008, Zach de la Rocha's lyrics from "If You Fear Dying" on One Day as a Lion's debut album references Ali: "I'm in with the spirit of Ali Touré, as I target more heads than a priest on Ash Wednesday"


* [ A Thorough Discography (click on the images for more info. and sample music)]

* 1976 - "Ali Touré Farka" (Sonafric 50016-LP)
* 1976 - "Spécial « Biennale du Mali »" (Sonafric 50020-LP)
* 1978 - "Biennale" (Sonafric 50032-LP)
* 1979 - "Ali Touré Farka" (Sonafric 50060-LP)
* 1980 - "Ali Touré dit Farka" (Sonafric 50085-LP)
* 1984 - "Ali Farka Touré (Red)" (Sonodisc/Esperance 5558)
* 1988 - "Ali Farka Touré (Green)" (Sonodisc/Esperance 8448)
* 1989 - "Ali Farka Touré" (World Circuit WCD007 / Mango 9826)
* 1990 - "African Blues" (Shanachie 65002)
* 1990 - "The River" (World Circuit WCD017 / Mango 9897)
* 1993 - "The Source" (World Circuit WCD030 / Hannibal 1375) with Taj Mahal
* 1994 - "Talking Timbuktu" (World Circuit WCD040 / Hannibal 1381) (with Ry Cooder)
* 1996 - "Radio Mali" (World Circuit WCD044 / Nonesuch 79569) (remastered selections of original albums from 1975 through 1980)
* 1999 - "Niafunké" (World Circuit WCD054 / Hannibal 1443)
* 2004 - "Red&Green" (World Circuit WCD070 / Nonesuch 79882) (remastered original albums from 1984 and 1988)
* 2005 - "In the Heart of the Moon" (World Circuit WCD072 / Nonesuch 79920) (with Toumani Diabaté and Ry Cooder)
* 2006 - "Savane" (World Circuit WCD075 / Nonesuch 79965)


*A Visit To Ali Farka Toure - a film by Marc Huraux


* Kubik, Gerhard (1999). "Africa and the Blues". Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1578061458 (hardcover); ISBN 1578061466 (paperback).
* Guralnick, Peter, ed. (2003). "Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey". A companion book to the PBS documentary series "Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey". Foreword by Alex Gibney; afterword by Chuck D. New York: Amistad.

External links

* [ Official website]
* [ Official page] on MySpace
* [ Multimedia website]
* [ Fondation Ali Farka Touré] fr icon
* [ Discography]
* [ Ali Farka Touré at NPR Music]

NAME=Touré, Ali Farka
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Malian singer and guitarist
DATE OF BIRTH=October 31, 1939
PLACE OF BIRTH=Kanau, Timbuktu, Mali
DATE OF DEATH=March 6, 2006

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