music reviewBy Clyde Macfarlane
Vieux Farka Touré returns to his Malian roots in this moving statement on his home country.
The album Mon Pays, meaning 'my country', sees Vieux Farka Touré return to his Malian roots. It comes after the guitarist's career-defining exploration of musical territory, expanding Mali's home-grown desert blues to include many other genres.
A reflective Vieux Farka Touré says of his latest album, "I wanted to pay homage to our musical heritage. For me it's a statement for the world that this land is for the sons and daughters of Mali, not for al-Qaeda or any militants". It seems fitting then that Vieux should be primarily backed by a kora, the 21-stringed harp whose sound will always be unmistakably West African.
A trip to one's roots means more for Vieux than it might for other musicians; Vieux's father, Ali Farka Touré, was the man largely responsible for bringing the desert blues to an international audience.
Ali's most celebrated work was the Grammy Award winning In The Heart of The Moon, a collaboration album with kora maestro, Toumani Diabaté.
Echoing this famous partnership Mon Pays pairs Vieux with Sidiki Diabaté, the son of Toumani Diabaté (not to be confused with Toumani's kora playing father, also called Sidiki), a collaboration which was surely inevitable sooner or later.
Sending a message
On Mon Pays, tracks such as 'Safare' come across as more brooding than uplifting, with the calabash percussion and raw electric guitars staying very true to desert blues. Two instrumental tracks, 'Peace' and 'Future', possess an emotional charge that speaks without the need for words.
These songs are not the traditional njarka-driven instrumentals that Ali popularised; where tradition is concerned, Sidiki Diabaté's kora melodies take the lead. Instead they are rather direct addresses to the Malian conflict; the English titles of these two tracks declaring Vieux's messages clearly enough.
"The Islamists in the north are not true Muslims", says Vieux. "They are militant groups that are only interested in their own power. They are hypocrites. Banning music was another way to control the people. Music for us is life. When we have no music, it is like we have no life. Without music we are robbed of our identity."
Mon Pays is released by Six Degrees Records.