Local Music

Published on April 12th, 2017 | by Brittain Thompson


Rock & Roll, Blues, and the Sounds of Mali: Vieux Farka Toure at Proud Larrys’ April 17

Vieux Farka Touré is a Malian guitarist, songwriter, and singer who has taken the world by storm with his blend of blues, classic rock, and Malian sounds.

Though Touré is now an international touring artist, his career was almost but a dream. His father Ali Farka Touré, a well-respected member of his tribe and an accomplished musician himself, had to be convinced of his son’s determination before Touré could embark on his path to being a recording artist.

“I always knew in my heart that I wanted to be a musician, and that I would be a musician. I love to do other things like fish and farm and I involve myself in other businesses, but I have always known that music was my true passion,” said Touré. “Ali [Touré’s father] did not like the business of music and wanted an easier, simpler life for me and his other children. But he saw towards the end of his life that I was very serious and passionate and also stubborn about this, and he gave me his blessing without reservation.”

Touré Hails from Africa but his taste in music reaches far beyond the claims of his village or borders of Mali, and this is largely what makes his work so interesting. There are very traditional sensibilities to music that contrast with distinctly modern influences.

“I love American blues music from the old masters like BB King,” said Touré. “I love the old greats like Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Bob Marley. I am a big fan of reggae music. I also like pop music and hip hop music and also Arabic music. There are a lot of styles that I really appreciate and I try to bring them in, even in small or subtle ways, into my own music.”

The Malian’s first tour out of the country was actually spent in the United States over the span of two weeks in 2007.

“I think I would have to say my first tour was the most memorable experience for me,” said Touré. “In 2007 we did a tour for two weeks in February. There were a lot of great shows on that first tour, and it gave me the confidence to develop into a professional touring artist over the following ten years.”

Since then Touré has gone on to play massive stages, including the FIFA World Cup.

“I don’t think anything can compare to the experience of performing in front of millions of people and representing Mali for the World Cup opening concert in South Africa,” said Touré. “There were huge stars around me and so many people screaming. It was an incomparable experience, like a dream.”

Which each release, Touré’s work centers on matters both personal and national. Part of his efforts in touring are to raise awareness of the strife his homeland endures as well as the people who have become anchors in his life.

“Samba has some very personal stories for me in the songs. There is the song for Mariam, my sister, who is very dear to me, and I am honoring her with this song. There is the song ‘Maya’ for the daughter of my manager who is a good friend like a brother to me. He had his baby, Maya, in this past year so I wanted to pay homage to her and her family as well,” said Touré. “Then there are more painful songs like ‘Ouaga’ in which I talk about the destruction of a terrorist attack in the wonderful city of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, and ‘Homafu Wawa’ in which I talk about the terrorists in the North of Mali who are so hungry for power that they will ignore all decency and do great evil. I also talk about the need to protect our environment in ‘Nature.’ So you see, all the things that touch my heart, positively or negatively, I will write a song about them.”

Vieux Farka Touré will play at Proud Larrys’ April 17. Tickets are available now online. The Local Voice Ligature

Video shot by Alan Lomax of R.L. Burnside playing Hill Country Blues in 1978 in North Mississippi
Marco Pave, Alfred Banks, and Stork Playing Free Show April 10

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About the Author

Brittain is an associate editor of The Local Voice, ex-journalism student, and bad noise maker from the highway town of Brandon, MS.

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