Mali / USA, 1994, Songhai music / blues

Ali Farka Touré With Ry CooderTalking Timbuktu: Timbuktu is actually a city in Mali, but “for some people, when you say ‘Timbuktu’, it is like the end of the world, but that is not true. I am from Timbuktu, and I can tell you we are at right at the heart of the world.” — Ali Farka Touré, Los Angeles, 1993

The first track lured me, the second track hooked me. I was not prepared for the beautiful onslaught of the night. The night in the music, I mean, a time when love goes right, when one can contemplate the sighs of the world. What surprises me most about this album is how no two tracks sound the same. Perhaps that’s due, in part, to the fact that Touré sings in at least four different languages here. The Songhai people are not some monolithic culture, and thus their music is going to be understandably diverse. They once ruled an empire that covered most of the interior of West Africa. For this album, one track will be lush and electric, another swaggering, another strained, rusty strings, and yet another bare bones held together by sparse percussion.

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