Posted by: Justin Hopper | October 13, 2008

Vieux From Abroad

Malian Cowboy

Malian Cowboy

The call-and-response relationship between Africa’s guitar-based music and American blues is cited constantly, and has been well explored in the past decade

with projects like Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Touré’s Talking Timbuktu, and From Senegal to Senatobia, the collaboration between Otha Turner’s fife-and-drum band and a best-of-gang of Senegalese musicians. (Apocalyptic stories tell of African and Mississippi musicians meeting and playing together, knowing the same songs from separate traditions; this recording makes it seem possible.)

Listening to Vieux Farka Touré’s (performing tonight as an associated event to PIFOF) live performance of “Ai Du” – at New York City’s world-music-championing venue, Joe’s Pub – it’s hard not to hear the ethereal, almost trance-inducing Mississippi hill-country blues of Junior Kimbrough. A fact that makes Touré’s music only more immediate and culturally fascinating: After all, how many of America’s best musicians his age – a babyfaced 27 – are practicing the stunningly powerful juke joint atmospherics of Touré’s hill country equivalents? Few, and dwindling.

The first thing anyone’s likely to tell you about Vieux Farka Touré is his parentage: The son of worldwide-renowned guitar legend Ali Farka Touré, Vieux has inherited his father’s instinctive abilities and heartfelt passions; his transcendental, meditative patience, the Harold Pinter of world music, and the easy oneness with the guitar that makes his technique at once near-perfect, and irrelevant.

But what, perhaps, Vieux brings to his larger-than-life father’s table is the distinct blood-power of youth. On UFOs over Bamako, Touré’s music was indoctrinated into the ubiquitous 21st century remix culture by a set of global-dance icons – Cheb I Sabbah and Karsh Kale amongst them. The result is music that seems far from the original blues of Malian guitar, but never far from Vieux Farka Touré – a musician whose natural talent give him musical prowess, but whose prominent name and rebellious age gives him the tabula rasa on which he will write the future of the music he inherits.



  1. Last night, this incredible band – led by Vieux Farka Touré’s amazing guitar work from Mali – literally left everyone standing and dancing by the end of the concert. The performance lasted nearly 2 hours without an intermission, with at least an hour of audience members that couldn’t help themselves than to be onstage.

    With stirring vocals, guitar solos, drums, and unique West African percussion instruments, it mattered little that few in the audience spoke French or Bambara or any of the other native languages of Mali … with music this lively, one only has to feel it to be touched and moved. The type of music that can turn any bad day into a fun night. While everyone smiled and appreciated the time that Vieux Farka Touré graciously took to teach Pittsburghers a few phrases, their experiences at this concert will no doubt be much longer lasting.

    For many, it may be hard to believe that a band of this acclaimed stature was an entertainment option on a Monday night in Pittsburgh. Sure, we are a sports town. But for those that might have took a chance and passed on Monday Night Football or the MLB Championship Series, they experienced something memorable at the New Hazlett. After seeing a performance like this, it is clear why many of the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts events have become among the hottest tickets in the city.

    Hopefully, this band can return to the city …. Vieux Farka Touré should be on the short list for a future Three Rivers Arts Festival at Point State Park. Now that might liven up even the hottest of summer nights.

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